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Taliesin's Travels by Michael Dames
Read in 2016


I picked up this book from my local library thinking it was about 'the Taliesin', the "sixth-century bard" as referred to in the book about Merlin I read recently (see below), but it turns out this is about another Teliesin but referring to the Teliesin.

"Taliesin's Travels is based on the Welsh folk tale named either Hanes Taliesin, or Chwedl Taliesin, both meaning 'The Story of Taliesin'... that in Sir I. Williams opinion, evolved in North Wales in the ninth century. It takes a wry view of military heroics and the flattery of princes, while raising archaic yet timeless issues concerning human dealing with the supernatural and natural worlds... As a demi-god, Taliesin is a half-and-half character. Straddling the sacred-profane divide... Yet he keeps one foot on the ground by borrowing the name of a mortal, sixth century Welsh poet, Taliesin. Thus a collection of the mythic Taliesin's gnomic utterances and poems, found in the fourth century Book of Taliesin, is interspersed with some verses attributed to the mortal bard."

Some of those references, from Skene, Book of Taliesin, 1868, are as follows:

I sang before a famous lord in the meadows of Severn
Before Brochual of Powys who loved my muse.

Dames says here that Taliesin "had been a notable glorifier of warfare and the above lines were boasted after "serving the bloodthirsty King Brochwel of Powys."

Teliesin "disparages monks for their lack of elemental understanding":

Monks congregate like dogs in a kennel...
They know not when the deep night and dawn divide,
Nor what is the course of the wind, or who agitates it.
In what place it dies away, on what land it rear.

At another time he wonders:

Do you know what you are When you are sleeping?
Whether a body or a soul, Or a secrecy of perception?

"Eventually rousing himself, he decides to invite Merlin to stay with him on Enlli [Bardsey], since that wizard of a thousand faces is said to be his third self.... The isle is shaped, they imagine, as a goddess of knowledgeable fruitfulness, seen in a mountainously pregnant condition. Through her 'radiant door' they will witness the rebirth of each sacred dawn, season by season, while Taliesin sings to his cousin-suns, the ever circling stars."

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