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Heritage and Wildlife of the area

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'In Praise of Oswestry' by Guto'r Glyn (15th century)

In coiffure and dress no women excel Those who in Oswalds’s city dwell. Adorned in Cheapside’s merchandise, Harmonious her citizens, and wise.” From ‘In Praise of Oswestry’ by Guto'r Glyn (transl DM Lloyd) In the 15th century one of the most well known Welsh poets was Guto’r Glyn. At that time poets were held in great esteem and received patronage from landowners and gentry. His poems are full of colourful descriptions of every day life and allow us modern readers to glimpse something of how things were in the medieval border towns and grand feudal estates. One of the most famous and complete poems is ‘In Praise of Oswestry’ and it is obvious that he knew the town and its inhabitants very well indeed. Guto’r Glyn’s fame is now being revived by a University of Wales project to reconstruct and compile a new, full collection of his surviving poetry, complete with English translations, and descriptions of Medieval life in the 15th century. This will be launched as an on-line resource in September 2012. Here are links to this project: http://www.wales.ac.uk/en/CentreforAdvancedWelshCelticStudies/ResearchProjects/CurrentProjects/Poetry and a call for papers for the project wind up conference http://www.wales.ac.uk/Resources/Documents/Centre/2012/Galwad-am-Bapurau-SaesnegMedi2012.pdf Guto’r Glyn wrote poems, cywyddau, that praised his patrons, and were written to be read or sung aloud. It is a fascinating insight into the northern borders of Wales and England that poems about Chester and Oswestry and Edward IV were written in Welsh, and that he was obviously a popular poet in an area where Welsh was common place. He describes fine living and feasts in lavish medieval homes, with a lot of interesting detail and lively descriptions which bring that world to life. Guto’r Glyn’s early life is not well known. He was born either in Glyn Ceiriog or Glyndyfrdwy sometime beween 1412 and 1420. He was brought up in the Ceiriog and was obviously a local boy. He was already well known as a poet by the 1430’s. He was large, black haired and bearded and was from a farming community and once lost some sheep whilst working as a drover and was then accused of selling them in Oswestry. In 1441 he enlisted and fought on the Yorkists side during the War of the Roses. He fought in France too. In later years he went bald and then blind and lived out his final years in Valle Crucis abbey in Llangollen, dying in about 1493 A fuller description is on Wikipedia, with references. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guto'r_Glyn and here on National Library of Wales site http://wbo.llgc.org.uk/en/s-GUTO-GLY-1440.html There is a book about his life: Rees, E. A life of Guto'r Glyn, Y Lolfa, 2008, pp.19-20, which is still in print. I really like his poem about Oswestry and look forward to a new version when the Guto’r Glyn project is launched. I love the bits about fine wine shops and good beer, and well dressed ladies… Nothing’s changed then! Derek Williams from Oswestry Library gave me a photocopy of a translation of ‘In Praise of Oswestry’ done by DM Lloyd. It's from A Book of Wales edited by D.M. and E.M. Lloyd (Collins, 1953). I have typed it out again and here it is in full. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. In Praise of Oswestry Guto’r Glyn c.1412- c.1493 Transl from Welsh by D.M.Lloyd Hill-countryman in younger days, Now with grey hairs I’ve changed my ways; My faltering steps prefer the town, Within its walls I’ll settle down, My jaded stomach milk will scorn, And calls for physic night and morn, A wandering poet near life’s goal Prefers his flask and pewter bowl, Warmth and comfort and friendly cheer, Fresh meat, white flour, and good beer. The timbered homes of lowland lea Restore my health like the green tree, Hence the home which shall be mine In Marchland where are mead and wine; Generous and true, a friendly town, Gracious, gifted, of high renown; The castle with its curtain wall Famed far as Rome above them all: Oswald’s town, where Christ is loved, To the conqueror a treasure proved. The London of our Owain’s land, With orchards rich and wine-shops grand, A school that’s free, and of wide fame, The town of preachers of good name; In a temple rich the Host they raise- Men in grammar and metrics beyond praise, A church supreme, and jewelled chalice, Clear bells, and an organ in God’s palace, A tuneful choir-a well-trained band, Vestments famed throughout the land; Where find you clergy as good and bright As they who serve in that temple white? In coiffure and dress no women excel Those who in Oswalds’s city dwell. Adorned in Cheapside’s merchandise, Harmonious her citizens, and wise. A tall Earl rules that city bright, An Earl who is England’s proud delight; May God in his grace preserve him long To maintain his rule, a guardian strong Over commons and yeomen proud and free, And citizens too of higher degree. Among these men I too, would stay As one of them to live my day. My muse to leave this town no more Would strive than the sea to leave the shore. Long wedded here, a burgess am I, To whom should I pay my fee, should I try? May Oswald’s citizens hold their hand Till hair on my head again will stand! If suddenly I’m called five pounds to pay, My fellows will aid me without delay. Among gracious folk whose hearts were true, Owain Waed Da was a burgess too; He had only to sing among his friends To gain his greatly coveted ends. The privilege I seek is what came his way, My burgess rights let none gainstay! A cowyth I offer, a song in court- Good poetry avoids great hurt. The muse’s solace is a gift more blest Than a noble of gold in the city chest; More lasting than gold, of greater fame, As Welshmen have sung, is our good name. To my fellow-townsmen sing then will I And my welcome will hold until I die: No more will I wander without consent To offer my song where once I went.

Maggie

Maggie

 

The History of Oswestry

All being well we should soon hear whether we have the go ahead for a new museum in Oswestry serving the area surrounding the place. Whilst waiting for the go ahead we have all been busy compiling a time line for the area and what a time line it is. Fantastical and exciting. Battles, wars, destruction, great charismatic leaders, legends, then development of transport links and trade in the industrial era. Today it is such a tranquil and sleepy backwater which looks as if nothing has ever happened but there have been phases in the past when we would have been living in a war zone if we had been around, with all the knife edge stuff about who's side you are on at any given moment, and strange mixed up border loyalties and feuds between feudal marcher lords and Welsh versus English conflicts. Owain Glydwr was local, his fathers estates were in Glyndyfrydwy and Sycharth near Llansilin, and he married a girl from Hamner. He was a rebel leader in the late 14th and early 15th century, was declared Prince of Wales in 1400, led the Welsh Revolt from 1400-1415, and formed the first Welsh Parliament in Machynlech in 1404. He was born into the Marcher nobility and like all good adventure stories, he was driven into being a rebel by a baddy on the English side setting things up against him and his family so that he could take their land. This guy, called Baron Grey de Rhythin was a mate of Henry IV and sounds like a real moustache twiddling villain. After he was declared Prince of Wales (and he is the last Welsh born Prince of Wales), many men joined Owain's army. Welsh undergraduates left Oxford to join him. Welsh labourers and workers left England and later he had trained soldiers and archers in his army. He became a master of disguise took on the English armies sent in to squash his revolt. In 1402 he captured Baron Grey and held him for a year before Henry IV came up with the ransom to release his friend. Henry IV appointed Henry Percy, otherwise known as Hotspur to sort out the rebels, and he was another swashbuckling hero to add to the mix. Glyndwr had the English on the run and persuaded the French and Bretons to join him in 1404 and 5, and they raided Devon and the Isle of Wight. But the tide turned, England used economic sanctions and torture to regain control in the Welsh Borders, and pretty soon Owain Glyndwr was reduced to being a guerilla leader of suicide raids against the English, last seen alive in an ambush in Brecon in 1412 . He always retained the Celtic romantic high ground, was never betrayed or captured, and legends grew about him. Like many great heroes no-one knows when he died or where he is buried. Some argue that he went to live with a daughter in Herefordshire, where his further adventures gave rise to the local legends about 'Jack of Kent'. Shakespeare uses him as a character in Henry IV where he is exotic and magical and a bit of a Merlin. Since the 19th century Owain Glydwr has been used as an icon for Welsh revival and patriotism, and the romance has grown. After the success of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart there were strong rumours that he was planning to make a film about Owain Glyndwr. There are many obvious similarities between the two archetypal underdog heroes, not least that William Wallace's family had moved north from near Oswestry before he was born! This is just one of many such legendary people who have strong links to this area. I suppose if you go up onto Selattyn Hill, or the Racecourse and look out, it is the sort of landscape where legends are made. I wonder what legends are growing in the area now. This is a link to the timeline http://www.dipity.co...ggier/Oswestry/ (but watch out for pop ups advertising Chinese women on the Dipity site)

Maggie

Maggie

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