The Godothin and Y Gododdin

The original poem – Y Gododdin – is the subject of endless argument – some academic (which I don’t always follow) and some based on personal prejudice (which I don’t go along with). Even the facts of its original writing are disputed. It’s said to have been first written in the 6th century (or maybe the 9th), by a poet who is named as Aneirin. The manuscript we now have appears to have been transcribed in the 13th century by two hands – Scribe A and Scribe B. The parts written by Scribe A are in Middle Welsh, and those by Scribe B in Old Welsh, or ‘Archaic Neo-Brittonic’, if you believe another expert.
It’s a praise-poem to the heroes of the Godothin, a Brittonic people who lived in Southern Scotland and Northern England. They were known to the Romans as the Votadini, and they occupied the country that’s now the Lothians, the Borders and Northumberland. They built structures known as hill-forts, although it’s now thought that most of them had no military significance whatsoever – they were secure settlements built on high ground. Centres included Edinburgh Castle rock, Traprain Law, White Castle, Edin’s Hall ‘Broch’, Bamburgh and many other sites.

When the Angles invaded in the 6th century, they conquered several Brythonic kingdoms (including Elmet). The Godothin feasted in Din Eidyn (Edinburgh) for a whole year (!) before setting off for battle at Catraeth – probably Catterick in Yorkshire. They were defeated, and the Godothin kingdom had fallen by 638. The warriors were from far afield, including some from Rheged (Galloway), Pictland, and even Gwynedd (in Wales).
Why am I bovvered? Well, my old friend David Purdie translated the poem into Scots some years back, and his manuscript generated considerable interest from publishers. Unfortunately, none of that interest converted into a firm proposal for a book, so I decided that if they wouldn’t, I would. I’m bringing it out in the early part of 2009.
We’re now debating the cover. I took some photos of the White Castle hill-fort a few weeks back. As photos go, they’re not bad, but they won’t do for a cover. However, I have a Cunning Plan.
Anyway, I’m beginning the whizz-bang that is the mad round of Christmas festivities, only I’m starting below par with the seasonal cold that seems to be doing the rounds. However, with a cough and splutter, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I may do a Hog-Blog on the 31st if I feel the urge to wallow in sentimentality, but I shouldn’t count on it.

About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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7 Responses to The Godothin and Y Gododdin

  1. Andrew Philip says:

    Now that sounds <>very<> interesting, Colin. I just recently read, and hugely enjoyed, William Neil’s translations from the Odyssey.

  2. Colin Will says:

    I <>must<> read that Andrew. Many thanks.Colin

  3. Rachel Fox says:

    I, on the other hand, would really love to read the blog of wallowing sentimentality! I don’t like everyone’s sentimentality but I’m sure yours would be worth a read.Happy holidays.x

  4. Andrew Philip says:

    Absolutely, Colin. It’s a cracker. Jude picked it up in a charity shop. The Saltire Society published it in the 1990s.

  5. Colin Will says:

    The SPL has it, so I’ll request it after the holidays. They also have adiotapes of Neill reading extracts.

  6. Andrew Philip says:

    Last one to the audio section is a Trojan!

  7. Sorlil says:

    That does sound interesting. Hope you had a great Christmas and all the best for the new year!

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