Mewn môr y myn ym orwedd,
A mantle is an outer garment worn over the shoulders, and, in the fifteenth century, different kinds of mantles had different purposes. They varied greatly in terms of shape, colour and usage and some of the names for mantle-like items that appear in the poetry of Guto’r Glyn are llen, clog, mantell, cwnsallt, simwr and pilis. It is unclear to what extent the poets distinguished between clothing terms with similar meanings, however, when Guto uses the words clog and simwr he is probably referring to a travelling cape. A large and warm mantle was necessary for the kind of all-weather travelling that was required of the poets in this century. Some poets received a garment of this kind as a gift from a patron. Guto, for example, was given a ffaling or Irish mantle by Elen daughter of Robert Puleston (poem 53).
The word mantell could also refer to a more dignified garment, one worn by the nobility and gentry on special occasions to denote their status. These mantles were adorned with rich borders of embroidery and fur; heraldic patterns were particular typical of this period.
Since gifts of clothing were customary between poets and patrons, sometimes a particularly ‘famous’ item of clothing is mentioned in the poetry. The gloves Dafydd ap Gwilym received from his patron, Ifor Hael, are mentioned on many occasions (‘Dafydd ap Gwilym.net’, poem 15 and Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal mentions a special mantle Guto’r Glyn received from Sir Richard Gethin, a professional soldier who fought in the English armies in France during the Hundred Years’ War). Guto probably met Sir Richard when he, too, served in the war in France. Ieuan’s poem thanks Sir Richard on Guto’s behalf and says of his gift, Mantell Mihangel felyn / Y sy glog eos y Glyn ‘the yellow mantle of St Michael is the cloak of the nightingale of the vale’.
References in humorous poems suggest that clothes could inspire jealousy, as in the case of the silver mantle that the poet Tudur Penllyn received from one of his patrons - a mantle he wore to steal the girlfriend of his fellow-poet, Ieuan Brydydd Hir. One can speculate that a garment Guto’r Glyn received from one of his patrons caused an envious Llywelyn ap Gutun to mock him, as Guto claims:
Mewn môr y myn ym orwedd,
Mae’n chwannog i’m clog a’m cledd;
Ef a’m crogai, ni wnâi nâd,
Yn Rhosyr er fy nhrwsiad;
he wishes that I lie in a sea,
he’s keen to have my cloak and my sword;
he’d hang me in Rhosyr for my clothes,
he wouldn’t give a cry;
ffaling (poem 53)
Guto’r Glyn received a special mantle from yet another patron: a large and thick outer garment named a ffaling or Irish mantle. It was given to him by Elen daughter of Robert Puleston of Llannerch, Llŷn, presumably after Guto composed his poem of request (poem 53). It is possible that the poem was recited at the court of Llannerch during a Christmas or New year feast. This was traditionally the time when poets received gifts from their patrons (see poem 53.31).
Clearly the Irish mantle was very popular in Wales during the fifteenth century as it is one of the main garments given to poets by their patrons. It seems Guto’r Glyn was not the only poet to receive an Irish mantle: many of his fellow poets such as Lewys Glyn Cothi and Ieuan Du’r Bilwg also had this fashionable item of clothing. A series of englynion attributed to Guto’r Glyn in some manuscripts (poem 122) also mentions a ffaling. The poet urges another poet, Rhys Grythor, to request a ffaling from Abbot Dafydd of Maenan, and, as in other poems describing this particular kind of mantle, it is a thick, woolly cloak (poem 122.27-8). The last englyn says:
Cai doryn batsler cadeiriog, – cai glwyd
Rhag annwyd rhew gwnnog,
Cai win gwyn llei cân y gog,
32Cai ffaling, drwyn cyffylog.
You’ll receive a chaired bachelor’s robe, you’ll receive a cover
against cold from ice exposed to the wind,
you’ll receive white wine where the cuckoo sings,
you’ll receive an Irish mantle, man with a woodcock’s nose.
A distinctive picture of the ffaling can be discerned from these poetic descriptions as all of the poets recognize its warmth, generous size, bright red colour and decorative border. Guto describes the mantle as a ‘scarlet coverlet’ and its red colour is further highlighted: it is the colour of ‘the dragon’s mantle’, rowan-berries and rose hips (44, 60, 58 and 52). Plants with red berries are apparent in his description and because he also refers to the cerwyni lliw ‘dye tubs’, one can suggest that here we have a hint of the kind of plants used to dye textiles red in this period.
The thickness and size of the mantle are also commended as well as the use of a frieze material on its edges; a material similar to fur according to the poets. The words gra (‘fur’), safrymwallt ffris (‘frieze of saffron-coloured hair’), pân ‘fur’, as well as the descriptions of it as being a ‘cloak of a cockerel’s crest’ and ‘two borders on my gift are of roses’ seemingly refer to this decorative border. The Irish are illustrated wearing these mantles by artists of the sixteenth century and this coarser wool on the edges is clearly illustrated. The history of the Irish mantle is interesting. By the sixteenth century, it became a costume traditionally associated with the Irish and, consequently, the English tried to exclude the Irish from wearing them, insisting that they were promoting an Irish identity and were therefore a threat to the English. But it is clear that this had no effect on the popularity of the Irish mantle, and archaeological finds prove that they remained popular in Waterford, Dublin and Drogheda. There are also records indicating that Irish ships were exporting mantles to England, and perhaps to some of the ports of west Wales, such as those on the Llŷn Peninsula, as suggested by Guto in this poem. Guto has two references in his poem to the ship that carried the requested gift to Llŷn, clearly noting that it was the produce of the Irish woollen industry:
Gwyddel a ddug i Elen
We o wlân lliw ar lun llen;
Dewis oedd, wedi’u dwys wau,
Ar longaid o ffalingau.
An Irishman brought to Elen a colourful woven wool
in the form of a mantle;
it was the choicest of a shipload of Irish mantles
all tightly woven.
An Irish mantle was clearly an ideal garment for a fifteenth-century poet as he travelled from one gentry house to another. For an animation of Guto’r Glyn wearing this special mantle, see the Animation of Cochwillan.
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Bibliography: F. Piponnier & P. Mane, Dress in the Middle Ages (Yale, 1997), 132.
: P. Lord, The Visual Culture of Wales: Medieval Vision, (Cardiff, 2003), 260.
: D. Foster Evans (gol.), Gwaith Hywel Swrdwal a’i deulu (Aberystwyth, 2000), 24.53-4.
: M.P. Bryant-Quinn (gol.), Gwaith Ieuan Brydydd Hir (Aberystwyth, 2000), poem no. 3.
: For the Irish mantle in Welsh poetry see further A.M. Jones, ‘“Val y Gwydel am y Ffalling”: Beirdd y Bymthegfed Ganrif a’r Fantell Wyddeling’, Llên Cymru, 32 (2009), 85-100.
: T. O’Neill, Merchants and Mariners in Medieval Ireland (Dublin, 1987), 69-70
: B. B. Thomas, Braslun o Hanes Economaidd Cymru (Caerdydd, 1941), 55.
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