Tawddgyrch Cadwynog

Yesterday while looking for examples of the Georgian shairi poetry format, I ran across a reference to “the long sixteen-syllable line that the obscure hynmographer Pilipe Betlemeli had used for his invocation of the virgin.”     I wasn’t able to track down Betlemeli’s Georgian invocation, but oddly enough there is a hymn to the virgin written in a similar form, a Welsh poetry form called Tawddgyrch Cadwynog, also with 16 syllables, but with a slightly different end-rhyming scheme. This early English Hymn to the Virgin was written in English but with Welsh orthography about 1470 by Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal, a Welshman attending Oxford in England.  It has been the subject of much curiosity by  linguists as it occurs about the time the Great Vowel Shift:

Very early in the NE period, the ME i tended to develop into a
diphthong. This diphthongization, together with that of ME ii,
constitutes (according to Jespersen) the first step in the ” great
vowel-shift.”^ “The long |i”| must through |ii| have become |ei|
about 1500 ; it is transcribed ei in the Welsh hymn written
about that time, by S[alesbury], 1547 and H[art, Orthographic),
1569, while the Lambeth fragment 1528 identifies it with F ay ”
(Jespersen, p. 234). On this point, Wyld, p. 223, states : ” The
present-day development [of ME i] is the well-marked diphthong
[ai]. The first stage in the process was most probably [i*], that is,
the latter part of the old long vowel was made slack. We must
consider this stage as already diphthongal. The next stage was
probably a further differentiation between the first and second
elements of the diphthong, the former being lowered to [e]. The
subsequent career of the diphthong may well have been [si-sdi-ai].
A point of importance is that at one stage the diphthong became
identical with that developed out of old oi^ . . . The stage [ei]
may be represented by the occasional spellings with ey, ei in the
fifteenth century.” Among these he mentions those found in the
W Hymn to the Virgin. He concludes (p. 225) by stating that
” from this combined evidence of occasional spellings and the
statements of grammarians, it appears (i) that from the fifteenth
to well into the seventeenth century old i was pronounced by many
speakers as a diphthong ^ of which the first element was a front
vowel, the diphthong thus being either [e^’, ei] or [sti] ; (2) that
during the same period other speakers pronounced old I and old
with one and the same diphthongal combination ; (3) that at any
rate from the seventeenth century onwards, the first element of the
diphthong was either [9] or [a], most probably the latter, giving
the diphthong [a«].” So there were in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and
seventeenth centuries, two types of pronunciation for this i.

[source: The English element in Welsh; a study of English loan-words in Welsh by T.H.Parry -Williams

Most of the copies of this are locked up tight behind paywalls, but a later copy from a Welsh source was published in Anglia; Zeitschrift für englische Philologie (Anglia, Journal of English Philology) “AN0THER WELSH PHONETIC COPY OF THE EARLY ENGLISH HYMN TO THE VIRGIN FROM A BRITISH MUSEUM MS. NO. 14866.” by 0. T. Williams, Uniyersity College of North Wales, Bangor.


I Dduw ac i Fair Wyry.
(To God and to Virgin Mary.) 

Llyma owdyl arall i dduw ac i fair a wnaeth Kymbro yn
Ehydychen wrth ddysgu achos dwedyd o im or Saeson nad
oedd na mesur na chynghanedd ynghynibraeg. Yntau ai atte-
bodd i gwnai ef gerdd o Saesneg ar fesur a chynghanedd
Kymraeg fal na fedreur Sais nag yr im oi gyfeillion wneythur
moi math yn i hiaith i himein ac i canodd ef val i canlyn
ond am fy mod in scrivennu r llyfr hwn oll ag Orthographie
kymbraeg e gaiff hyn o Saesneg ganlyn yn llwybr ni-
darllenwch ef val Kymbraeg. 

That is " Here is another ode to God and to Mary, written by 
a Welshman, when he was a Student at Oxford, because an 
Enghshman said, that there was neither metre nor alliterative 
harmony in Welsh. He answered him and said that he would wnte 
an English poem in Welsh alliterative metre, the like of which the 
Englishman nor any of Ins friends could not write in Ins own language, 
and he sang it as follows, but because 1 am writmg this book in Welsh 
orthography, this much of English shall follow our path; read it like Welsh." 

meichtii ladi owr2 leding tw 3 haf at hefn owr abeiding in 4 tw* thei* ffest ef erlesting e i set a braints 7 ws tw bring
7 \>mf2 gWrtMS ' : * miCMi ' 2 ° Ur ' 3 t0 ' 4 yntw ' 5 ddei ' 6 everlastiu e> 20*
yw wan 1 ddus 2 wyth blus 3 dde blessing off 4 god Hur ywr gwd abering wher 5 yw bunn 6 ffor ywr wunning 7 syns Kwin and ywr sonn* üs King owr fforffadders 9 ffadder l0 our 11 ffiding owr pop on ywr paps had sucking 12 in 13 hefn blus 3 ffor» 4 ddus 2 thiug attendans wythowt ending wising 15 tw 10 breicht 17 King 18 wyth coning 10 and blus 20 ddei 21 blosswm ffruwt bering ei wowld as owld as ei sing win 22 ywr lof 23 on yowr 24 lafing 25 Quin od off owr god owr geiding modor 26 mayden 27 not wyth Standing whw 28 wed iirst 29 wyth a rieh 30 ring as god wud 31 ddus 2 gwd weding help us 32 prae ffor us 32 prefferring owr sowls assoel us 32 at ending niak ddat awl we 33 ffawl tw ffing ywr S}ais 34 lof 35 owr syns lefing 30 As wi mae dde dae off owr deing resef owr safiowr 37 in howsling as hi mae tak :!s us 32 waking tw hüm 39 in hus 40 meichti 41 whing 42 4:i meicht 43 hi 44 twk mi ocht tw tel owr 45 sowls 40 off hei tw soels off height 47 wi wish 48 wyth bwk 4<J wi wish 48 wyth bei to 50 hefn ffwl wel : tw haf on ffleight 51
1 wann, 2 ddys, 3 blyss, 4 of, 5 hwier, 6 bynn, 7 wynning, 8 synn, 9 fforffaddyrs, 10 ffaddyr, 11 owr, 12 swking, 13 yn, 14 i had, 15 sin, 16 dde, 17 bricht, 18 kwin, 19 kwning, 20 blys, 21 the, 22 wynn, 23 lyf, 24 ywr, 25 laving, 26 mwddyr, 27 maedyn, 28 hw, 29 syts, 30 ryts, 31 wad, 32 ws, 33 wi, 34 synns, 35 lyf, 36 leving, 37 saviowr, 38 tak, 39 hym, 40 hys, 41 michti, 42 wing, 43 micht, 44 hyt, 45 owt, 46 sols, 47 hiebt, 48 aish, 49 bwk, 50 tw, 51 flicht,
awl dids wel dwn 1 | t abeid 2 te 3 bwn l a gwd mit 5 wreight 6 a god mad tiwn 4 and se so swn 7 1 and north and nwn 8 i and so non meight 10 and synn and mwn 9 j as swn ' as preid : is " now snpprest ,2 bis 13 bei 14 is 11 pest 15 bis sowl 16 is 11 peight 17 ei 18 tel tw io 19 | as swm 20 dw 21 shio i wi uws not reight. 22 as now ei tro a boe 23 wyth 24 bo j hys lwcks 25 ys 26 so 27 l ffrom hym 29 a kneiglit 30 how mae uw 2S kno dde truwth us yt 31 ddat iyrth 32 us 33 cast dde ends bi last dde bands bi leight 34 o god set yt gwd as yt was dde rywl 35 doth 36 pass dde world hath peight. 37 A pretti thing wi prae to thest ddat gwd bihest that 38 god beheight 39 and bi was ffing untw 40 his 41 ffest ddat efr 42 shawl 43 lest wytb deifyrs leight 44 dde world awae 45 j is dwn 46 as dae 47 yt ys 49 nei neight 50 yt ys no wae 48 as owld ei sae 51 j ei was in ffae 52 wowld 54 god ei meight 55 eild a gwd mae 53 |
1 dywn, 2 tabyd, 3 deo, 4 trwn, 5 met, 6 wricht, 7 swn, 8 nwn, 9 mwn, 10 micht, 11 ys, 12 syprest, 13 hys, 14 sei, 15 best, 16 sol, 17 picht, 18 EI, 19 yo, 20 synn, 21 dwth, 22 rieht, 23 hoy, 24 withs, 25 lokes, 26 is, 27 slo, 28 yw, 29 hym ffrom, ' 30 knicht, 31 kyt, 32 yerth, 33 ys, 34 licht, 35 rvwl, 36 dwth, 37 picht, 38 ddat, 39 bihicht, 40 yntw, 41 hys, 42 ever, 43 shal, 44 licht, 45 away, 46 dynn, 47 day, 48 nay, 49 is, 50 nicht, 51 say, 52 ffay, 53 may, 54 wld, 55 micht.
a ' wae ' wi wowld dde syns ddeü 2 sowld n a baue 3 heiaht 1 an bi not howld and iwng 5 and owld wyth liym ddey 6 howld ddat Jesus 8 heiglit " dde Jews 7 has sowld o Jesus 10 Crist ddat werst a crown and 11 wi dei down a redi deight 12 tw thank tw thi 13 | at dde rwd tri ddeyn u own 14 tw licht dden went all wi tw grawnt agri j amen wyth mi [ thi tw 15 mei seight 16 ddat ei mae si owr lwk owr king owr lok owr cae mei god ei prae mei geid upreight ' 7 ei sik ' 8 ei sing ei shiäk ' '•' ei sae ei wer 20 awae a wiri weiglit 21 ei 22 fahrt 22 ei go j mei ffrinds 23 mei 21 ffoe 25 wyth ffend 28 ei ffeight 20 a 2ü ffond 2 ' a ffo ei sing also | in 30 welth in 31 wo 32 i tw Kwin o 33 meight 34 ei can no mo meighti ladi etc.
Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal ai cant medd eraill Ieuan ap I>ytherch ap loan Lloyd (That is "Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal sang it, according to others Ieuan ap Eytherch ap loan Lloyd.")
1 Awar, 2 ddey, 3 baut. 4 hicht, 5 ywng, 6 ddei, 7 Dsivws, - Dsiesws, 9 hicht, 10 trysti, II er, 12 dicht, 13 ddi, 14 ddey now, lö two, 16 siclit, 17 vpricht, 18 sik, 19 shiak with h underdotted, 20 wer, 21 wicht, 22 agaynst, 23 ffrynds, 24 mi, 25 ffro, 26 ei, 27 ffownd, 28 ffynd, 29 ffricht, 30 yn', 31 and, 32 wo, 33 off, 34 micht.

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Even with the obvious scanning errors and the hard-to-read format with the footnotes, it’s still an intriguing poem, all the more so for being so similar to another unique poetry form thousands of miles to the east.

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