David ap Gwilym (DNB00)

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DAVID ap GWILYM (14th cent.), a celebrated Welsh bard, was born, according to one tradition, at Bro Gynin in the parish of Llanbadarn Vawr, Cardiganshire, about 1340, and dying there about 1400, was buried in the abbey of Ystrad Flur in the same county. Elsewhere he is stated to have been born near Llandaff, Glamorganshire, in 1300, and to have died at the abbey of Talley, Carmarthenshire, in 1368. His parents were Gwilym Gam, a descendant of Llywarch ab Brân, one of the fifteen tribes of North Wales, and Ardudful, sister of Llywelyn ap Gwilym Vychan of Emlyn, who from the extent of his possessions is sometimes styled lord of Cardigan. His education was cared for by Llywelyn. From his more than ordinary acquaintance with Latin and Italian literature he has been loosely asserted to have studied at some academy in Italy. About the age of fifteen he returned home, but a propensity for satirising his neighbours soon obliged him to seek a shelter with his kinsman, Ivor Hael of Maesaleg in Monmouthshire, who appointed him his steward and tutor to his only daughter. An attachment sprang up between the poet and his pupil, which ended in the lady being immured in a convent in Anglesey. David afterwards became reconciled with his kinsman. During his stay with Ivor David was elected chief bard of Glamorganshire, on which account he was often called David Morganwg and Ivor's Bard. He was always a jealous defender of the respect due to his order, and having been publicly insulted by a rival bard, one Rhys Meigan, he is said to have literally killed him by the force of his satire. He has been compared to Petrarch, his Laura being Morvydd, the daughter of Madog Lawgain of Anglesey. To this lady he addressed 147 poems. The precise number is, however, disputed. Though Morvydd returned the poet's love, and considered herself married to him, she was forced by her relations into a more formal union with a decrepit old man, by name Cynorig Cynin, whose wealth was his only recommendation. He is the Bwa Bach ('Little Hunchback') of the poet's verse. David afterwards contrived to elope with Morvydd, but being overtaken, he was rigorously prosecuted by the husband, and condemned to pay a heavy penalty. The men of Glamorgan rescued him from what might have proved a lifelong imprisonment by paying the fine. Two of his poems are devoted expressly to Glamorgan in his gratitude for this timely service. David probably ended his days at his native village of Llanbadarn Vawr. In person he was remarkably handsome. His contempt for monkish usages, which found fearless expression in his songs, brought him into frequent collision with the church. His poems, 262 in number, were collected and published by Owen Jones (Myfyr) and William Owen-Pughe, under the title 'Barddoniaeth Dafydd ab Gwilym, o grynhoad Owen Jones, a William Owen,' pp. xliii, 548, Llundain, 1789, 8vo. Other poems by him have since been discovered among the manuscript collections of Welsh poetry in the Mostyn library. The British Museum possesses many manuscript copies of his poems. 'Translations into English verse from the Poems of Davyth ab Gwilym' [by Maelog, i.e. Arthur James Johnes] appeared in 1834, an admirable version. A paraphrase by Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) of David's poem, 'The Fair Pilgrim,' reached a third edition in 1791, and was republished in the fourth volume of Roach's 'Beauties of the Poets,' 1794.

[Owen's Sketch prefixed to Poems; Williams's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Welshmen (1852), pp. 114-15; Wilkins's Hist. of the Literature of Wales, pp. 32-49; Stephens's Literature of the Kymry, 2nd edit. chap. iv. sect. 2; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. G.