A friend on Facebook recently posted a picture of a bottle of Welsh whisky named Rhiannon. Produced by Penderyn in the Cynon Valley, it is part of their Icon’s of Wales range of single malts which celebrates people, events and milestones that are significant to Wales. Rhiannon means Great Queen, and she features in the Mabinogion – a collection of early Welsh literature, believed to be stories passed down by word of mouth for many generations before being written down.
This picture sparked a memory. Several years ago, before I was confident enough to let anyone read anything I had written, my husband signed me up for a local writing group. We had different tasks to do for each meeting, which I enjoyed, and then we got to read what we had written to the group, which I did not enjoy. At first I was so worried about reading out my work that I barely listened to the words read out by those before me, but when it came to my turn I was amazed by the positive feedback I got and slowly over the following months my confidence grew. Unfortunately the group was short lived, but I will be forever grateful for it, and for the self-belief it fostered.
One of the tasks we were given in the group was to write a ballad to tell a story – either one we already knew or one of our own creation. I chose to base mine (loosely) on the story of Rhiannon and Pwyll in the Mabinogion. I had forgotten all about my ballad until I saw the whisky on Facebook, which prompted me to go looking for my writing group notebook. As I tend to do with old poems I find, I have tweaked this a little, but it is mostly as I wrote it originally for the writing group.
The Ballad of Rhiannon and Pwyll
Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, a brave and fearless man,
Went forth to do battle with the evil King Hafgan.
Returning home victorious he planned to have a feast,
Eating, drinking, dancing for the next 3 days at least!
But looking from his window, a maiden he did spy,
In splendid golden robes, on a white horse riding by
“Who is yonder beauty?” he demanded of his men
But not one could answer him and so he ordered them
“Back up on your horses men, to follow where she goes.
On him who finds out who she is rewards I will bestow.”
But no matter how they rode, their efforts were in vain
For her horse bore an enchantment so no one on her could gain
Now Pwyll could bear to watch no more as each man left the chase
He jumped upon his trusty steed and after her he raced.
But e’en he could not catch her up, so called after her horse,
“Fair maiden, for the sake of love, please stop!” she said “Of course.”
“Please let me know your name” said Pwyll “and what your business here”
“Rhiannon is my name” said she “my business is quite clear;
To have you fall in love with me and take me for your bride.
In searching for my handsome prince I’ve travelled far and wide.
“So let us set a date at once and one twelve month from now
With merriment and feasting, to you I’ll pledge my vow”
Hence one year to the day they met the two off them were wed
So let us leave our tale here whilst the lovers off to bed.