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The poem "The Wind" by 14th-century Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, which can be read online in an English translation by Gwyneth Lewis, mostly consists of an ode to the wind, described poetically in many different ways according to its nature and effects. Only in the last two stanzas does the poet turn to his main point of asking the wind to go and find the girl he loves.

A few things in this poem confused me, but I've managed to resolve most of them: a cwm is a geographical feature (an English word that's so clearly borrowed from Welsh), and "Upper Aeron" presumably refers to the Aeron Valley in Wales. The only thing that still baffles me is this passage:

Be lovely and cool, stay in clear tune.
Don’t hang about or let that maniac,
Litigious Little Bow, hold you back,
He’s poisonous. Society
And its goods are closed to me.

Who is Litigious Little Bow and what are these lines about?

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Bwa Bach (“Little Bow”) was a nickname for Morfudd’s husband Cynfrig Cynin, referring perhaps to his crooked or hunched back. His jealousy of Dafydd led to the latter being exiled from his home in Ceredigion (“society and its goods are closed to me”).

The lines quoted in the question are:

Yn glaer deg, yn eglur dôn.
Nac aro di, nac eiriach,
Nac ofna er Bwa Bach,
Cyhuddgwyn wenwyn weini.
Caeth yw’r wlad a’i maeth i mi.

There are some nuances here that Lewis’s translation did not capture: “wenwyn” means “jealousy” as well as “poison”; the primary meaning of “wlad” is “land” or “homeland”, with “society” secondary; and “maeth” means “sustenance” or “nurture” which are not well-conveyed by “goods”. Here are three other translations of these lines:

Bright and handsome, clear of tone.
Do not linger, do not spare,
Do not fear despite Y Bwa Bach
Of accusing complaint, serving poison;
Closed is the land and its fostering to me.

Translated by Richard M. Loomis (1982). Dafydd ap Gwilym: The Poems, p. 221. Center for Medieval & Early Renaissance Studies.

nice and gently, a clear song.
Don’t wait, don’t restrain yourself,
don’t be afraid despite Bwa Bach,
[he who] serves a malicious accusatory complaint.
The land and its nurture is closed to me.

Translated by Dafydd Johnston (2007). Dafydd ap Gwilym.net.

be gentle and kind, with voice easily heard.
Do not stop, do not hold back
nor fear, inspite of the Bwa Bach
—that whining accuser, serving jealousy—
that land which nourished her is closed to me.

Translated by Rachel Bromwich (1982). Dafydd ap Gwilym: Poems, p. 104. Llandysul: Gomer Press.

The name “Morfudd” appears in thirty-six of Dafydd’s poems, and most commentators believe that she represents a real person:

we can assemble from the Morfudd poems this conjectural portrait of her: She was blonde and, before she aged, beautiful (passim), tall (96), well-born (102), possibly born in Eithinfynydd (57) in Merionethshire, her father’s name being Madog Lawgam (93). Dafydd’s courtship of her was public (108), and he celebrated her in poems that became famous throughout Gwynedd (34). A religious girl, she had scruples about returning his love (57), but at last pledged her love to him (43). This pledge may have been part of a ritual marriage, though not a marriage sanctioned and witnessed by the church. In any event, a canonical marriage with another man was arranged for Morfudd by her family, leading Dafydd (in a poem, 86, that does not name Morfudd but fits the circumstances of his love for her) to declare that he would have no other wife. Morfudd’s husband, named Cynfrig Cynin (73), bore the nickname “Bwa Bach” (131), meaning “Little Bow,” that is, “Little Hunchback.” His home in Uwch Aeron (117) was in Dafydd’s own home country (the parish of Llanbadarn in north Ceredigion). Morfudd bore Bwa Bach children, but did not cease to love Dafydd (79). Dafydd’s love for her lasted, as I have noted above, until she grew old (139). After her marriage, he sought (and sometimes won) secret trysts with her, in the woods (successfully in 53) or by night at her home (unsuccessfully in 89). But her husband’s jealousy was savage enough that Dafydd was virtually exiled from his native territory in Uwch Aeron (117), his covert incursions involving a risk to his life. Of this risk he speaks in commissioning animals to bear his love messages; their fleet natures should enable them to evade the jealous husband’s attacks (as in 117). It is, doubtless, of this dangerous little man that Dafydd speaks in 75, a poem wishing death on Eiddig (“the jealous one”). Eiddig’s very breath, Dafydd charges in 81, has spoiled the face of the wife whom we may take to be the same Morfudd whose loss of beauty from age is mourned in 139.

Loomis, p. 38.

The lines which say that “Bwa Bach” was married to Morfudd are from the poem ‘Yesterday’:

Da y gwnâi Forfudd â’i dyn
O’r diwedd, hoen eiry dywyn.
Iawn y gwneuthum ei chanmawl,
On’d oedd iawn, f’enaid i ddiawl!
Nos da i’r ferch anerchglaer,
A dydd da am nad oedd daer.
Hi a orfuum haeach,
Aha! wraig y Bwa Bach!

Morfudd would be good to her man
At last, the color of snow’s radiance.
I did right to praise her;
If it was not right, my soul to the devil!
Good-evening to the girl of bright greeting.
And good-day because she was not in earnest.
She whom I almost subdued
Is aha! the wife of Y Bwa Bach.

Dafydd ap Gwilym (C14). ‘Ddoe’ (‘Yesterday’). Translated by Richard M. Loomis (1982). Dafydd ap Gwilym: The Poems, p. 241.

The jealous husband’s real name appears in the poem ‘Morfudd’s Hair’:

Bun a gafas urddasreg;
Bu ragor dawn briger deg
Cannaid rhag Cynwrig Cinnin,
Fab y pengrych, flawrfrych flin,
Llwdn anghenfil gwegilgrach,
Llwm yw ei iad lle mae iach,
Lledweddw, rheidus, anlladfegr,
Lletben chwysigen chwys egr.
Annhebig, eiddig addef,
Fulwyllt, oedd ei foelwallt ef,
Llariaidd ddifeth y’i plethwyd,
I’r llwyn ar ben Morfudd Llwyd.

The girl received a noble gift;
Better was the quality of the fine hair
Of the bright girl than that of Cynfrig Cynin’s,
Crude calf with a neck of scabby nape.
His skull is bare where healthy,
Drunken, needy, wanton beggar,
His cheek a blister of sour sweat.
Not similar (known to be jealous,
Wild and foolish) was his bald head
(Gentle and abundant was it braided)
To the grove on Morfudd Llwyd’s head.

Dafydd ap Gwilym (C14). ‘Gwallt Morfudd’ (‘Morfudd’s Hair’). Translated by Richard M. Loomis (1982). Dafydd ap Gwilym: The Poems, p. 163.

Finally, “Uwch Aeron” does not refer only to the upper Glyn Aeron: it was a cantref, a medieval administrative division akin to an English “hundred”, consisting of land north of Glyn Aeron up as far as Afon Ystwyth.

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  • Far more comprehensive than mine. I like to think I’d have done better with more than a phone to access information! Have an upvote. :) – Spagirl Dec 29 '20 at 12:29
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This seems to be a reference to a person, also translated, less poetically, as ‘little hunchback’.

The first reference I found was in ‘Bardic museum of primitive British literature and other admirable rarities ’ which translates the poem as:

Tell me never resting friend, of the journey on some northern blast, over the dale. Ah, friend, go from Aeron brightly fair, with a clear note; stop thou not, or gossip; fear not because of little Hunchback. A complaint of impeachment serving ill-nature.

And footnotes ‘little Hunchback’

Literally, the little bow, the common epithet which the poet gave to his fortunate competitor for fair Morvadd; his real name was Rys Gwgan, who was a captain in the English army at the celebrated battle of Cressy’

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