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Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 181, 2010-2011 Lectures$
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Ron Johnston

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265277

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265277.001.0001

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

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

2010 Sir John Rhŷs Memorial Lecture

(p.1) More than ‘skimble-skamble stuff’: the Medieval Welsh Poetry Associated with Owain Glyndŵr
Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 181, 2010-2011 Lectures

Gruffydd Aled Williams

British Academy

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

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