More than ‘skimble-skamble stuff’: the Medieval Welsh Poetry Associated with Owain Glyndŵr

Gruffydd Aled Williams

in Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 181, 2010-2011 Lectures

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265277
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754203 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

More than ‘skimble-skamble stuff’: the Medieval Welsh Poetry Associated with Owain Glyndŵr

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In Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Hotspur refers to the partiality of Owain Glyndŵr (Glendower) for prophecies, which he characterises dismissively as ‘skimble-skamble stuff’. Whilst there is a virtual scholarly consensus that Glyndŵr inspired prophecies and utilised them, no verse prophecies certainly dateable to the revolt have survived, and the poetry surveyed in the lecture consists of eulogies by high-status poets, all but one of them composed before the outbreak of the revolt in 1400. Though used as a source by the historians J. E. Lloyd and R. R. Davies in their volumes on Glyndŵr, this corpus of poems is for the first time examined in detail in English as a discrete group, one that now includes a unique poem – a hybrid displaying elements of eulogy and of vaticination – composed during the revolt and restored to the canon of Glyndŵr poems since the two historians wrote. The poems, some of which are of Scottish interest – they reflect Glyndŵr's participation in Richard II's invasion of Scotland in 1385 – are examined in historical context and in relation to medieval Welsh poetic convention. Drawing on R. R. Davies' perception of post-Conquest Wales as an English colony, insights derived from modern postcolonial criticism are applied to the depiction of Owain in some of the poems, revealing their value in charting his evolution from a seemingly conformist ‘colonial mimic’ to the leader of a national revolt.

Keywords: Owain Glyndwr; poems; post-colonial criticism

Chapter.  16479 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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