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Dafydd Nanmor, fl. c.1445–d. 1485–90

Dafydd Nanmor was one of the greatest poets of the fifteenth century. Guto composed a short elegy for both Dafydd and Ieuan Deulwyn (poem 54). Although is seems that Dafydd was raised in Nanmor Deudraeth in Snowdonia, he spent most of his life after c.1453 in south-west Wales because of a legal dispute in his homeland concerning poems he had composed for a married woman named Gwen o’r Ddôl. He is associated mainly with the family of Tywyn in Ceredigion, three generations of which gave him patronage, but he also composed poetry for other patrons in the same locality and to Dafydd ab Ieuan ab Einion of Edeirnion. He composed political poems for Edmund and Jasper Tudor and for Edmund’s son, Henry, who was later crowned Henry VII. He was a religious poet of note and many of his poems display a widespread knowledge of fifteenth-century learning. See further DN; Lewis 1973; Ruddock 1992; Lloyd 1997; Williams 2001: 567–75; DNB Online s.n. Dafydd Nanmor; Powell 2004: passim (especially page 86, footnote 3).

His date of death
Following the notes on Guto’s elegy for both Dafydd and Ieuan Deulwyn, it is likely that he composed the first englyn very soon after Dafydd’s death. This englyn may have been recorded before Guto composed his second englyn, that is to say, either before Ieuan died or before Guto heard of his death. No doubt Guto would have spent very little time composing the englyn and it would not have taken long for either him or a scribe in the abbey of Valle Crucis to write it in a manuscript. Therefore, it is possible that Guto composed the englyn a few days or even a few hours after he heard the news. Nevertheless, even if a few weeks or even months separated the two poets’ deaths, it is likely that the first englyn, at least, was a contemporary poem. But when did Dafydd die?

Hywel Rheinallt composed an elegy for Dafydd and three other poets who died about the same time and in the order they are named in the poem: Deio (possibly Deio Ddu/Du), Ieuan Deulwyn and Tudur Penllyn. At the time of writing there is no certainty that the evidence of the poem as edited in Gruffydd (1909: 134–6), DN poem XL and GTP poem Atodiad V, is reliable as the first was based on two manuscript copies, the second on three and the third on four copies. According to MCF, the poem survives in a total of thirteen manuscript copies. However, what is clear is that Dafydd is elegized first and foremost in the opening twenty lines of the poem. Next, with four lines of elegy, is the poet named Deio, who was either Dafydd ab Edmwnd, following Gruffydd (1909: 135; idem 1922: 13):

Deio aeth dan wylo’n ol,
Dug gwiwdduw da cywyddol

‘Deio went with repeated weeping,
excellent God took a poet’s wealth’

or, following the other two editions (DN xxx, 110, 201; GTP 98), Deio ab Ieuan Du (cf. GDID xvii):

Deio aeth dan wylo’n ôl,
Du gweddw, ys da gywyddol

‘Desolate Deio Du/Ddu went
with repeated weeping, a good poet’

The next couplet refers to Ieuan Deulwyn (GTP V.25–6):

Yr ail dydd ar ôl eu dwyn
Y daliwyd Ieuan Deulwyn

‘The second day after they were taken
Ieuan Deulwyn was caught’

Next Tudur Penllyn is elegized for fourteen lines before Rheinallt turns his attention at the end of the poem to all four poets together.

Gruffydd identified Deio as Dafydd ab Edmwnd on the basis of Tudur Aled’s elegy for Dafydd, in which it is strongly implied that Dafydd died about the same time as both Dafydd Nanmor and Ieuan Deulwyn (TA LXX.9–14; also DE poem Atodiad I (pages 137–40); Gruffydd 1909: 137):

Bwrw Dafydd gelfydd dan gôr,
Bwrw, ddoe, ’n unmodd, Bardd Nanmor;
Bwrw Deulwyn, y brawd olaf,
Blodau cerdd, ba wlad y caf?
Tair awen oedd i’r trywyr
A fai les i fil o wŷr.

‘Striking skillful Dafydd under a chancell,
striking the poet of Nanmor yesterday likewise;
striking Deulwyn, the last brother,
poetry’s flowers, where will I go?
The three men possessed three muses
that would benefit a thousand men.’

Although he is not named, Tudur is in all likelihood referring to Dafydd Nanmor, not Rhys Nanmor (TA 609; Gruffydd 1922: 13; DN xxi–ii, xxix). Assuming that Tudur is not referring to himself as y brawd olaf ‘the last brother’, it is probably a description of Ieuan Deulwyn as the last of the three dead poets named by Tudur. However, as in the case of Hywel Rheinallt’s poem, there is no certainty that the evidence of TA’s edition is reliable as it was based on the readings of eight manuscripts only, whilst MCF lists over thirty manuscript copies.

What is almost certain is that Dafydd Nanmor, Dafydd ab Edmwnd, Ieuan Deulwyn, Tudur Penllyn and, possibly, Deio ab Ieuan Du all died within a few months or years of each other, and that Dafydd Nanmor’s death was one of the first (if not the first). Unfortunately, very little research has been made into the lives of these poets and it is not known for certain when exactly any one of them died. However, in the most detailed discussion on this subject to date, Ifor Williams (DN xxxi–iv) refers to DE x, where it is argued that Dafydd ab Edmwnd composed a poem for Tomas Salbri ap Tomas Salbri in 1497. Williams offers convincing arguments against this theory, showing that Dafydd could have composed the poem between 1470 and 1490. Neverthless, there is again no certainty as to the reliability of this theory as it was based on an edition of Dafydd’s poem (DE poem XLIV) that was itself based on six manucsript copies only out of a total of twenty two (MCF).

Furthermore, the same uncertainty applies to an edition of another important poem in this respect, namely Dafydd Nanmor’s poem of praise for Sir Dafydd ap Tomas of Y Faenor in Is Aeron (DN poem XIX), which was based on the evidence of four or five manuscripts out of the total of fourteen listed in MCF (cf. Thomas 2006). Despite the poor condition of the edited text, Davies (1964–5: 72–3) argues that the poem was composed between 1490 and 1492. The thrust of his argument is based on records in the Bishops of St David’s Rents that note the resignation of one ‘Syr David’ from the vicarage of the parish of Nancwnlle in the commote of Pennardd in 1490, and the resignation of one ‘Syr David ap Thomas’ from the parsonage of the parish of Maenordeifi in the commote of Emlyn Is Cuch in 1492. The latter was undoubtedly Dafydd’s patron (Dafydd locates him in y Vaenawr … geyrllaw Is Aeron ‘Y Faenor near Is Aeron’, DN XIX.7, 9, 19, 29), and the identification of the former is in fact irrelevant. Davies suggests that Sir Dafydd was parson of Maenordeifi between 1490 and 1492, following the rather weak argument that Sir Dafydd only had care for Nancwnlle before that date. The records do not in fact suggest that Sir Dafydd was appointed parson of Maenordeifi in 1490, only that he was replaced in 1492. The year 1492 is, therefore, the poem’s terminus ante quem, and there is no reason to believe that Dafydd Nanmor was still active during the 1490s.

Only after editing the work of all the poets discussed will it be possible to accurately date Dafydd Nanmor’s death. At the time of writing, Ifor William’s arguments seem the most plausible (DN xxxiv), namely that Dafydd died c.1485, for there are no poems by him that refer to Henry Tudor’s victory in Bosworth in that year. It may be safer to assume that Dafydd died sometime between 1485 and 1490, assuming that he died about the same time as Ieuan Deulwyn (fl. c.1460–88).

Davies, W.B. (1964–5), ‘Awdl Dafydd Nanmor i Syr Dafydd ap Tomas’, LlCy 8: 70–3
Gruffydd, W.J. (1909), Y Flodeugerdd Newydd (Caerdydd)
Gruffydd, W.J. (1922), Llenyddiaeth Cymru o 1450 hyd 1600 (Lerpwl)
Lewis, S. (1973), ‘Dafydd Nanmor’, R.G. Gruffydd (gol.), Meistri’r Canrifoedd: Ysgrifau ar Hanes Llenyddiaeth Gymraeg gan Saunders Lewis (Caerdydd), 80–92
Lloyd, D.M. (1997), ‘Dafydd Nanmor’, A.O.H. Jarman and G.R. Hughes (eds.), A Guide to Welsh Literature 1282–c.1550 (Cardiff), 170–81
Powell, N.M.W. (2004), ‘Dyfalu Dafydd Nanmor’, LlCy 27: 86–112
Ruddock, G.E. (1992), Dafydd Nanmor (Caernarfon)
Thomas, O. (2006), ‘Awdl Dafydd Nanmor i Rys ap Maredudd o’r Tywyn (PWDN cerdd III)’, Dwned, 12: 73–91
Williams, G.A. (2001), ‘The Literary Tradition to c.1560’, J.B. Smith and Ll.B. Smith (eds.), History of Merioneth Volume II: The Middle Ages (Cardiff), 507–628

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