Taliesin

 

"As soon as Elphin saw the forehead, he said, 'behold the radiant forehead!' 


The figure of Taliesin is both a God and a sixth century bard, fighting with Aneurin in Y Gododdin as a warrior poet, and as a God from the Mabinogi. 

§62. ...At that time, Talhaiarn Tataguen was famed for poetry, and Neirin, and Taliesin and Bluchbard, and Cian, who is called Guenith Guaut, were all famous at the same time in British poetry. The great king,Malcun , reigned among the Britons.
 

Here we see reference to Taliesin, Aneirin, and Talhaiarn, placed in the time of Maelgwn Gwynedd, which is later corroborated in the Hanes Taliesin. As Maelgwn is said to have died in 547, this puts Taliesin squarely in the middle part of the sixth century. At this time, Urien of Rheged is also said to have lived (ca. 530-590), and thus that Taliesin served as bard to Urien (as is demonstraited by the poems in the (Llyfr Taliesin)  would also fit into this time scheme. It would also locate much of the historical Taliesin's life in Britain and South Wales. 

 

And until I fail in old age,
In the sore necessity of death,
May I not be smiling,
If I praise not Urien.
Taliesin is also the  bard of Urien. 

 

King Arthur, at Llyn Tegid.  Gwion bach he is known as also. He was a boy recruited to stir the magic cauldron of inspiration, belonging to the witch Cerridwen. In this cauldron was a potion that would make Cerridwen's son Afagddu into the wisest man in Britian; unfortunately, three drops splattered out while Gwion was stirring it, and he instinctually stuck them in his mouth. These were the three drops of Awen, which resulted in Gwion's enlightenment. Upon learing this, Cerridwen pursues him; they go through numerous shapeshifting phases, until finally he is a grain of corn and she is a hen who eats him. This impregnates Cerridwen, who gives birth to the boy and sets him out to sea. He is then found by Elphin, son of Gwyddno Garanhir, who raises the boy and names him "Taliesin" for the radient brow the infant posesses. The infant is preternaturally gifted, able to speak at birth, and at thirteen is able to win a contest against Maelgwn's bards. 


The early portion, wherein his Awen is gained from Cerridwen's cauldron, is also seen in the Llyfr Taliesin: 
 

I will address my Lord,
To consider the Awen.
What brought necessity
Before the time of Cerridwen.

Shall not my chair be defended from the cauldron of Cerridwen?
May my tongue be free in the sanctuary of the praise of Gogyrwen.

There will be a slaughter, let there be the speech of Afagddu.

While Taliesin delivering of Elphin from prison.
I am Taliesin,
I will delineate the true lineage
Continuing until the end,
In the pattern of Elphin.
 
A task deep (and) pure
To liberate Elphin.
Truly did Elffin bring me
To try my primitive bardic lore
Over a chieftain--
The grave of Rwfawn with the imperious aspect.
 
Taliesin with Pryderi, Pwyll, Gwydion, Math, 
I was enchanted by Math,
Before I became immortal,
I was enchanted by Gwydyon
The great purifier of the Brython
In Cad Goddeu (English: The Battle of the Trees) 
I have been in the battle of Godeu, with Lleu and Gwydion,
They changed the form of the elementary trees and sedges.
I have been with Bran in Ireland.
I saw when Morddwydtyllon was killed.

Complete is my chair in Caer Siddi,
No one will be afflicted with disease or old age that may be in it.
Manawyddan and Pryderi know it.
Song Before the Sons Of Llyfr. 
Math and Eunyd, skilful with the magic wand, freed the elements.
In the life of Gwydion and Amaethon, there was counsel.
The Death -Song Of Aeddon.

 
The Historical Taliesin
A 6th century bard, possibly from South Wales, but later migrated to Rheged where he became the court bard to Urien of Rheged and friend of Owain (the Arthurian Yvain/Ywein). This Taliesin is said in some manuscripts to have been the son of a St. Henwg and descended of Llyr, and to have raised the church Llanhenwg at Caerleon. He is said to have been at the battle of Catterick (The Gododdin), and comforted Myrddin Emrys at the Battle of Arthuret. His son is said to be variously named Aeddon/Afaon.