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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Sources > The Stanzas of the Graves

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The Sources
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The Stanzas of the Graves
(early thirteenth century)
Robert Vermaat

The Stanzas of the Graves or Englynion y Beddau (also known as 'The Graves of the Warriors of Britain') are found in a number of Welsh manuscripts. The earliest and most important collection is in the Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin (Black Book of Carmarthen) which contains seventy-three stanzas; sixty-nine of which were copied in the second quarter of the thirteen century and the other four (numbers 70 to 73) in the second half of the same century. Five more stanzas occur amongst the Llywarch verses in the Llyfr Coch Hergest (Red Book of Hergest) and it is known that these five were once in the earlier (fourteenth century) Llfyr Gwyn Rhydderch (White Book of Rhyderrch). Similar stanzas are found in two later manuscripts (Peniarth MS.98 and Wrexham MS.1); some of these are variants on Black Book stanzas.

While the earliest manuscript containing them (the Black Book of Carmarthen) dates to the 13th-century there can be no doubt that the vast majority of the englynion are far older than this - Jones dates the original text to the 9th- or 10th-century but as records of oral tales and folklore they may well represent much older traditions. Certainly later court poets of the princes appear to be drawing on this information.

Arthur

Of the 73 stanzas in the Black Book, only three (8, 12 and 44) mention well-known Arthurian characters and of these the most important is st. 44 which names Arthur himself:

[There is] a grave for March, a grave for Gwythur, / a grave for Gwgawn Red-sword; / the world's wonder (anoeth) [is] a grave for Arthur.

The poet's implication is that the graves of these Arthurian heroes are known but that of Arthur himself cannot be found, probably because he was rumoured not to be dead.

Vortigern

Only one stanza (40) mentions Vortigern and his supposed grave in Ystyfacheu, but with the apparent note that this is in doubt. Since Vortigern's grave is usually not given in any version of his tale, this seems not surprising. I have not been able to trace the place.

A transcript of the relevant stanza can be found here


Bibliography

VortigernStudies is copyright Robert Vermaat 1999-2007. All rights reserved