databas cerddi guto'r glyn


Guto’r Glyn’s first choice, if he needed comfort or medical care, was the monasteries. It seems that they were popular with the sick because they had the appropriate resources to offer treatment, be it medical treatment in the strict sense or spiritual solace:

 Olew gwiwDduw, wiail gweddus 
 Anrhydeddus, âi ’n rhaid Addaf; 
 Olew mynaich êl i minnau 
68I’m tref innau tra fwy’ wannaf: 
 Ymchwel oesoedd i’m achlesu, 
 Wledd yn Iesu lwyddianusaf! 
The holy oil of noble God, honourable rods
worthy of respect, came at Adam’s hour of need;
may the monks’ holy oil come also to me
in my homestead when I am at my weakest:
the return of the ages to welcome me,
the most prosperous feast in Jesus!

(poem 111.65-70)

The monks knew the properties of herbs and vegetables very well, and part of the gardens within monasteries would be dedicated to growing herbs for medicinal purposes (see Tradition and Culture).

There is little evidence for hospitals in Wales in this period. Poets use the word ysbyty (‘hospital’) mainly as a figurative image in emphasizing the hospitality of their patrons (e.g. 42.30). However, we know that in previous centuries hospitals had been established in some parts of Wales by the military religious order, the Hospitallers of St. John. We know of at least two in North Wales: one in Ysbyty Ifan, Denbighshire and at Gwanas, near Dolgellau in Merionethshire. The main purpose of these ‘hospitals’ was to offer sanctuary for pilgrims rather than to care for the sick. Another type of hospital were the infirmaries originally built for patients suffering from leprosy (see Diseases). Most of these belonged to the monasteries.

Almshouses that provided accommodation for patients were common in larger towns. Guto’r Glyn possibly refers to an almshouse in Bala, Merionethshire, in his poem to Elen of Nannau:

Yn y Bala bu Elen 
Yn torri haint ar wŷr hen, 
Yn taflu arian danaf 
Mewn gwely ym a mi’n glaf. 
Iach weithian a chywoethawg 
Wyf o’i rhodd i fyw yrhawg. 
Elen was there in Bala
to cure disease for old people,
she threw money underneath me
while I was in bed and unwell.
I am better now and richer
because of her gift to live for a while longer.

(poem 49.39-44)

We do not know the exact scenario behind this comment, but Guto is certainly describing the tender loving care he received from Elen in Bala while he was ill. Of course, charitableness towards the sick was part of the expected role of the noblewoman in this period. Though women did not necessarily have much formal medical knowledge, it was expected that they would offer care to the poor and weak and ensure that enough food and drink were available for them.
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