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Genealogy Places of Interest

CANU  LLYWARCH  HEN

In 641 A.D. the kingdom of Magonsaeton was formed as Shropshire south and east of the Severn and including the plain of Herefordshire.  The north of Shropshire formed a part of the kingdom of Wreocensaetan.
This transfer of economic and political power from Wroxeter to Shrewsbury and the defeat of Cynddylan with the destruction of Pengwern (hall of the Welsh, a white town in the Alder Woods) was not written down but is recorded with the majority of Welsh history which has been handed down in the form of poems. One such made Cynddylan a ruler in Dogfeiling, a strip in north-east Wales stretching from the Dee westward. Another makes him an ally of Penda (King of Mercia) at a battle near Oswestry in 642 A.D. where Oswald of Northumbria (after whom Oswestry was later named) was killed. Another poem "Canu Llywarch Hen" tells of a Princess Heledd lamenting the deaths of her brothers defending the Tren (Tern), of whom Cynddylan was the most prominent but with Cynan, Cynwraith and Elfan also mentioned. The poem relates how Pengwern is in ruins, the Tren flowing with blood and all Powys grieving. It also gives a good date for the demise of Pengwern as 642 A.D. Such places as the Wrekin, Ercall and Baschurch are named, as also is the river Severn. 

The poem is very long, a translation of all cannot be found so that a short extract is reproduced below. It is thought that Ffreuer was Heledd's sister.

My brothers were slain at one stroke, 
Cynan, Cynddylan, Cynwraith, 
Defending Tren, ravaged town........ 
White town between Tren and Trafal, 
More common was blood on the fields face 
Than ploughing a fallow........ 
The hall of Cynddylan, dark is the roof, 
Since the Saxon cut down 
Powys's Cynddylan and Aelfan........ 
It's not Ffreuer's death I mourn for tonight 
But myself, sick and feeble, 
My brothers and my land I lament........ 
Heledd the hawk I am called, 
Oh God ! to whom are given 
My brother's steeds and their lands ?

There was another poem written about Cynddylan and the loss of Pengwern. It was written in the 9th Century by an anonymous auther and is titled 'from The Elergy on Cynddylon'.

Stand out maids, and look on the land of Cynddylan; the court of 
Pengwern is ablaze; alas for the young who long for their brothers !... 
Cynddylan the bright buttress of the borderland, wearing a chain, 
stubborn in battle, he defended Trenn, his fathers town. 
Cynddylan of the bright heart, the stately, wearing a chain, stubborn 
in the army, he defended Trenn while he lived ... 
How sad it is to my heart to lay the white flesh in the black coffin, 
Cynddylan the leader of a hundred hosts. 
The hall of Cynddylan is dark tonight, without fire, without bed ; I 
shall weep a while, I shall be silent after. 
The hall of Cynddylan is dark tonight, without fire, without candle; 
but for God, who will give me sanity ? 
The hall of Cynddylan is dark tonight, without fire, without light; 
longing for you comes over me. 
The hall of Cynddylan, its vault is dark after the bright company; alas 
for him who does not do the good which falls to him ! 
Hall of Cynddylan, you have become shapeless, your shield is in the 
grave; while he lived you were not mended with hurdles. 
The hall of Cynddylan is loveless tonight, after him who owned it; ah, 
Death, why does it spare me ?.... 
The hall of Cynddylan, it pierces me to see it, without roof, without 
fire; my lord dead, myself alive .... 
The hall of Cynddylan is still tonight, after losing its chief; great 
merciful God, what shall I do ?.... 
The eagle of Eli, loud is his scream tonight; he swallowed gory drink, 
the heart's blood of Cynddylan the fair. 
The eagle of Eli was shrieking tonight, he wallowed in the blood of 
men; he in the wood, a heavy grief to me. 
The eagle of Eli I hear tonight; he is bloodstained, I dare not go near 
him; he in the wood, a heavy grief upon me ..... 
The eagle of Penngwern, grey-created, uplifted in his cry, greedy for 
the flesh of Cynddylan. 
The eagle of Penngwern, grey-crested, uplifted is his claw, greedy 
for the flesh I love .... 
The chapels of Bassa are his resting-place tonight, his last welcome, 
the pillar of battle, the heart of the men of Argoed .... 
The chapels of Bassa are a fallow field tonight, the clover has made it; 
they are red; my heart is full. 
The chapels of Bassa have lost their rank after the destruction by the 
English of Cynddylan and Elfan of Powys .... 
The white town in the breast of the wood, this is the symbol ever - 
blood on the surface of its grass. 
The white town in the land, its symbol is green graves, the blood 
under the feet of its men. 
The white town in the valley, glad is the kite at the bloodshed of 
battle; its people have perished ... 
After my brothers from the lands of the Severn round the banks of the 
Dwyryw, woe is me, God ! that I am alive ... 
I have looked out on a lovely land from the gravemound of Gorwynnion; 
long is the sun's course - longer are my memories ... 
I had brothers who were not vicious, who grew up like hazel saplings; 
one by one they have all passed away. 
I had brothers whom God has taken from me, it was my ill-luck that 
caused it; they did not earn fame by fraud ... 
  
Penngwern or Pengwern is known to be modern Shrewsbury or the general area of Shrewsbury. 
Bassa or Eglwysau Basa is known today as Baschurch. Gorwynnion is not known.

The above being a fairly modern translation taken from The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English 
chosen by Gwyn Jones from Jackson, Kenneth Hurlstone the river Severn is referred to as such but 
it should be realised that the river was originally owned by the Welsh and has previosely been known as Hafren, Habren, Sabrina and Seefern before it became the Severn.