databas cerddi guto'r glyn


Mead is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting honey and water, and it is one of the earliest drinks mentioned in the poetry, usually in a symbolic and ceremonial context.
A section on bees in the Welsh Laws of Hywel Dda, Peniarth 28 MS, f.22r (Digital Mirror).
Bees in the Law of Hywel Dda
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The references to mead in the work of the Early Poets and the Poets of the Princes have been analysed by Marged Haycock and the conclusion drawn that this intoxicating home-produced drink symbolised the whole sustenance of the court in the early period. She maintains that mead is a better symbol than wine in the early poetry as it was the produce of the native land and earth.[1] Mead remains a symbol of sustenance in the works of Guto’r Glyn. For instance, he says, when Abbot Rhys ap Dafydd is absent from Strata Florida Abbey, Tair blynedd am fedd ym fu (‘to me it is like three years for [lack of] mead’, poem 6.46).

It should be remembered, however, that medieval mead was very different from the sweet mead markedted today. In mid summer the bees were killed or driven away from their hives. The remains of the bees’ honeycomb were placed in a tub of water until the water absorbed the honey. This sweet water was leavened to produce a dry drink tasting of honey called medd ‘mead’ or meddyglyn. On average, each beehive produced about three gallons of mead but, unlike beer or cider, mead was not drunk on such a great scale.[2]

Mead and honey are frequently coupled in the work of the poets. In praising Sir Benet ap Hywel Guto’r Glyn states:

 Medd, cwrw, nis maddau Corwen, 
20Mêl cwyraidd mal y carwn. 
Mead, beer, Corwen does not forego them,
honey like wax of the kind I would like.

(poem 43.19-20)

Bees too are probably meant in the reference to perwaith gwenyn in Blaen-Tren (poem 12.58) and to the bee garden at Valle Crucis abbey (poem 113, lines 21-2 and 25-6).

Guto refers to glasfedd and medd glas which suggests that fresh mead was the best kind. Guto praises Rhys ap Dafydd of Uwch Aeron for his fresh mead:

 Glasfedd i’w gyfedd a gaf 
 Gan hwn, llawer gwan a’i hyf. 
I get fresh mead to drink
from this man, many a weak one drinks it.

(poem 12.5-6)

And it appears that Hywel Dafi accused Guto of overpraising the medd glas:

Medd ef, myfi a ddyfod 
I’r medd glas ormodd o glod, 
Says he, I declaimed
too much praise for the clear mead,

(poem 18.7-8)

It is not easy to establish the difference between meddyglyn and ordinary mead (medd) but meddyglyn was possibly a kind of mead with other ingredients added, such as spices and herbs.[3] It possessed a different meaning in the medicine of this period, namely a kind of medicament or medicinal drink (see Medicine: Cures). It is one of the drinks mentioned in Guto’s poem ‘The battle of the bards with the wine ofpoem 4.35). Meddyglyn was also a drink which the poet received at [placelink:2' target='_blank'>Valle Crucis abbey from Abbot Dafydd ab Ieuan: Cawn feddyglyn gwyn (‘I found white mead and dark-red bragget’, poem 113.21).


[1]: M. Haycock, ‘Where cider ends, there ale begins to reign’: drink in medieval Welsh poetry (Cambridge, 1999).
[2]: P. Brears, Cooking and Dining in Medieval England (Totnes, 2008), 107.
[3]: Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (Caerdydd, 1950-2002), s.v. meddyglyn, and ‘The Oxford English Dictionary’, s.v. metheglin.
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