Weapons of many kinds were prominent in society in the time of Guto’r Glyn. As well as being used by soldiers in the great wars of the period, the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, they were important for hunting, self-defence and for games or feats such as target-shooting and ‘sword and buckler play’. In addition, wearing a fine sword or dagger was a means of displaying wealth and status.
The main weapons mentioned by Guto in his poems are bows and arrows, spears, swords, shields and guns. Most of these had been in use in various forms throughout the Middle Ages, but the gun was a relatively new arrival. Another weapon he mentions is a battle-axe (poem 97.41-4), and he refers in a few poems to daggers and knives (e.g. poem 14.31, and see especially the description of a hunting knife in poem 76).
Guto does not provide a complete picture of the weapons used in his day, even so. Some important types of contemporary weapon, for example poll-axes and bills, are not mentioned in his poems, and though he often refers to archery (and was himself a professional archer in his youth, see Guto’r Glyn) he pays little attention to the important role of Welsh archers on the battlefield. This may be attributed to his understandable tendency to concentrate on high-status equipment, and to the influence of the conventional imagery of the bardic tradition which had long favoured swords, spears and shields as a means of praising the courage and prowess of patrons.
Bibliography: For further discussion of the portrayal of weapons in Guto’s poetry see J. Day, ‘ “Arms of Stone upon my Grave”: Weapons in the Poetry of Guto’r Glyn’, in B.J. Lewis, A. Parry Owen and D.F. Evans (eds), ‘Gwalch Cywyddau Gwŷr’: Essays on Guto’r Glyn and Fifteenth-Century Wales (Aberystwyth, 2013).
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