databas cerddi guto'r glyn


One of the gifts Guto’r Glyn received from Rhisiart Cyffin, dean of Bangor, was a rosary and he composed a poem to thank Rhisiart Cyffin for his gift (poem 59).[1] A rosary was a piece of string appended with small beads; it was used for counting prayers while reciting them and each bead would represent a prayer. A full rosary would have an amount of about a hundred and seventy beads (see poem 59.65). However, it was not practical to carry around such a large amount of beads, or to recite so much prayers, so alternatively smaller rosaries, such as the one described by Guto, were used. [2] Indeed, Guto’s rosary is a llinyn (‘string’) of sidan (‘silk’) with a set of wooden beads:

Prennau yw ’mhederau da, 
Pren seipr o ynys Opia. 
my good rosary is [made of] pieces of wood,
cypress wood from the land of Opia.

(poem 59.43-44)

Its clearly has ten principal beads, which is highlighted by the fact that Rhisiart Cyffin is degymu (‘paying tithe’) them to him (poem 59.31-4). Lewys Glyn Cothi also composed a cywydd and an ode to thank for rosaries with ten beads [3] and those poems as well a this one by Guto reflects the fact that rosaries used by men were usually shorter than those used by women [4]

Guto uses ten principal beads for prayers to Mary, but he also state that there are too additional beads on either end of the main beads (poem 59.54-60). One of these pater-beads were used to count The Lord’s Prayer which was recited before each set of ten prayers recited to Mary. As a rule ‘Gloria Patri’ would be recited after this and counted with the other pater-bead (see Wilkins, The Rose-garden Game, 14, 28). Lewys Glyn Cothi received the same kind of a rosary, that is with an amount of twelve beads. [5] However, Guto gives a more detailed description in his references to wearing the rosary on his waist, to a ring, and quite possible to an appended black tassel on the rosary (see poem 59, lines 26, 28, 33 and 35-6). This was therefore a ring rosary; these were originally worn by religious knights as they are more compact and practical.[6]:

A’u dwyn yr wyf dan yr ais; 
Dengair Deddf i ŵr greddfol, 
Deg glain yw’r rhain ar eu hôl. 
Mal tebig, mil a’i tybiodd, 
Mae Rhys yn degymu rhodd 
I Abel wrth dasel du, 
Nid i Gaim yn degymu. 
Y mae deg wrth fy ngwregys 
A modrwy bach, medr y bys. 
and I bear them beneath the ribs;
the Ten Commandments for a strong man,
these are ten beads to follow them.
When paying tithe as a gift, a thousand people thought this,
Rhys is like a man similar
to Abel with a black tassel,
not to Cain when paying tithe.
There are ten gifts on my belt
and a small ring, the finger’s skill.

(poem 59.28-36)

Evidently, Guto uses his rosary while counting prayers to the Virgin Mary (see poem 58, lines 23, 39, 50 a 65n), possibly the one quoted as follows:

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus,
benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,
blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’[7]

Before the twelfth century, rosaries were used for recite psalms attributed to the Prophet David or The Lord’s Prayer, but from that century onwards, they were specifically used for prayers to Mary due to the growth of her cult throughout Europe.[8] One hundred and fifty prayers were composed to Mary, thus, corresponded briefly to the one hundred and fifty psalms or psalter traditional attributed to Prophet David and called ‘Our Lady’s psalter’ (Llaswyr Mair). However, it is unclear if Our Lady’s psalter would be recited throughout Europe in the fifteenth century; reciting a simple prayer over and over such as the one quoted above, or even just a series of ‘Ave Maia’ is also possible.

Guto possibly refers to Our Lady’s psalter since he specifically refers to Mary in line 50:

Gorau ungwaith ym weithian 
Gweddïo Mair â’r gwŷdd mân. 
Rhodiaw y mae’r llaw mor llwyr 
Rhof a’r llys, rhifo’r llaswyr. 
The best singular task for me now
is to pray to Mary with the fine wood.
The hand treads so entirely
between me and the court, counting the psalter.

(poem 59.49-52)

Our Lady’s psalter was only recite by literate individuals and as illiterate clergy was on the increase, prayers which were recited with the aid of rosaries were simplified.[9] Seemingly, Guto, like Lewys Glyn Cothi, could read and would therefore be familiar with some of the Our Lady’s psalter.

The material used for the beads for Guto’s rosary was wood and he clearly state that neither muchudd manwydd (‘agate’) nor gwefr (‘ambr’) were used (poem 59.41-2). Beads were made of lead, iron, steel, clay and glass as well as wood [10], and no material seemed to surpass the other. Lewys Glyn Cothi received a wooden rosary as a gift by Hywel Prains of Glanmorgan and Lewys Môn received a rosary with amber beads by Ieuan ap Gwilym. The rosary described by Sir Dafydd Trefor was possibly of stones of various colours. [11]


[1]: See D. Johnston (gol.), Gwaith Lewys Glyn Cothi (Caerdydd, 1995), poems 106 and 185; E.I. Rowlands, Gwaith Lewys Môn (Caerdydd, 1975), poem no. XX; Rh. Ifans (gol.), Gwaith Syr Dafydd Trefor (Aberystwyth, 2005), poem no. 11; J.A. Jones, ‘Gweithiau Barddonol Huw Arwystl’ (M.A. Cymru, 1926), 267; N. Scourfield, ‘Gwaith Ieuan Gethin ab Ieuan ap Lleision, Llywelyn ap Hywel ab Ieuan ap Gronw, Ieuan Du’r Bilwg, Ieuan Rudd a Llywelyn Goch y Dant’ (M.Phil. Cymru Abertawe, 1993), 198-202 for more poems to rosaries.
[2]: E. Wilkins, The Rose-garden Game: The Symbolic Background to the European Prayer-beads (London, 1969), 54-5.
[3]: Johnston (gol.), Gwaith Lewys Glyn Cothi 106.45-9, 59, 185.37-40.
[4]: Wilkins, The Rose-garden Game, 219; Winston-Allen, Stories of the Rose, 112. In Germany they were called Zehner, Mannsbeter or Mannspaternoster (which were used by men) and a cavalieri (used by women).[footnote:Wilkins, The Rose-garden Game, 54.
[5]: Johnston (gol.), Gwaith Lewys Glyn Cothi, 106.59-60, 185.40.
[6]: For illustrations of rosaries similar to this one describe by Guto see Wilkins, The Rose-garden Game, plates 7, 13 ac 19.
[7]: Ifans (gol.), Gwaith Syr Dafydd Trefor, 11.58n.
[8]: Wilkins, The Rose-garden Game, 36; J.D. Miller, Beads and Prayers: The Rosary in History and Devotion (London, 2002), front page, 12, 47-8; N.L Doerr and V.S Owens, Praying With Beads: Daily Prayers for the Christian Year (Cambridge, 2007), viii.
[9]: Miller, Beads and Prayers, 48; Doerr and Owens, Praying With Beads, viii.
[10]: Wilkins, The Rose-garden Game, 45.
[11]: Ifans (gol.), Gwaith Syr Dafydd Trefor, poem no. 11.
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