LEWYS MORGANNWG (fl. 1520-1565), the bardic name of LLYWELYN ap RHISIART, ‘Chief Bard of the Three Provinces’, and one of the most notable poets in the history of Glamorgan

Name: Llywelyn ap Rhisiart

Pseudonym: Lewys Morgannwg

Parent: Rhisiart ap Rhys Brydydd

Gender: Male

Occupation: Chief Bard of the Three Provinces’, and one of the most notable poets in the history of Glamorgan

Area of activity: History and Culture; Poetry

Author: Evan John Saunders

He was a Glamorgan man by birth and his home was at Llantwit Major. His first patron, Sir Edward Stradling (see the article on the family), lived in the near-by castle of S. Donats, while his friend Iorwerth Fynglwyd also lived in the same neighbourhood. In an elegy to Tudur Aled he acknowledges him to have been his teacher in the art of poetry, and his use of cynghanedd was smooth, accurate, and in accordance with the celebrated principles laid down by his master. As one of the last — if, indeed, he was not the very last — Welsh poets of the Roman Catholic faith, there is a special interest in his devotional poems. He sang very devoutly to the Rood at Llan-faes and Llangynwyd, and also to the Virgin of Pen-rhys when Pen-rhys attracted thousands of pilgrims. As the writing of poems on the lives of the saints was traditional among the chief bards, he too wrote a poem on Illtud, the patron saint of his native district. But it was to Lleision, the last abbot of Neath, that he wrote his great awdl in the twenty-four metres which gives a vivid contemporary picture of monastic life in all its glory.

The poems addressed by Lewys Morgannwg to his many patrons are of exceptional value to the historian because he wrote at a time of revolutionary changes in religion, law, and society. As the family poet of the Herberts he came into contact with the family which filled most of the important posts under the new dispensation. In the poems he addressed to them it is easy to see the attraction which the Court at London had for those who were the mainstay of Welsh literature and culture and to observe how the interests of the aristocracy were being tightly bound to the throne by the gift of appointments and monastic possessions. In an elegy written to Rhys ap Siôn of Glyn Neath we hear a murmur of opposition to the English influences which were gradually spreading over Glamorgan and Gwent.