Battle of Cynuit – a diversion

Not the second instalment, just a comment of the Strangeness of Things. Rather like discovering an ‘Oakley’ = Æcglea quite close to the Somerset Edington. That led nowhere (as far as I could see). This ‘diversion’ because I was diverted when looking for something else.

Googling, as one does, my attention was drawn to the text of a medieval Welsh ‘gnomic’ poem in the Black Book of Carmarthen, which I already knew somewhat. The poem, a story of Llywarch Hen, is of uncertain date, but seems to date back to the 9th c. Its first line is: ‘Lym awel, llum brin’ meaning ‘Harsh gale, harsh (bare) hill’ – very gnomic. Llymder  means austerity, poverty, severity, bareness.

Bizarrely, the 28th ‘englyn’ or stanza, reads:

Kin imtuin ariweu ac yscuid
Arnad. diffreidad kad kynuid.
Pelis pa tir. ythuaguid.

where cad is Welsh for ‘battle’ or ‘army’, and cynwyd is both a proper name and (as mentioned previously) an adjective meaning ‘destructive’. So the translation would either be ‘Battle of Cynuit’, ‘destructive battle’  or army of Cynwyd. An old-fashioned translation is:

Since thou bearest (ym dwyn) arms and shield upon thee (arnad),
Defender of the destructive battle,
Pelis, in what land wast thou fostered (magu/fagu)?

or (mine),

Though you bear arms and shield,
Defender in the Battle of Cynuit/of Cynwyd’s army,
Pelis, in what country were you raised?

Gnomes were meant to be difficult to decipher, but even assuming the poem dates from the 9th c. and that it refers to the 878 Battle of Cynuit/Countisbury … how would the Welsh/British have been involved, since the battle was between the invading Vikings/Danes and the defending Saxon thegns? (But who was Pelis? The scholar Jenny Rowland describes him as the guide on an expedition, a follower of Owain Rheged and ‘defender of the host of Cynwyd’ – all of which places the story in the ‘Old North’, around the borders of Scotland and England, far away from any Saxon thegns.)

So, another false trail … the Battle of Cynuit and kad kynuid are unconnected? Never mind, here are Ivar and Ubba busy ravaging. About time they were halted in their tracks (though Ivar probably died in 873, but Ubba seems to have ‘got his’ at the ‘Battle of Cynuit’ in 878):

Hyngwar (Ivar) and Ubba ravaging the countryside: a 15th-c. view

Hyngwar (Ivar) and Ubba ravaging the countryside: a 15th-c. view


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