Iolo Goch (DNB00)

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IOLO GOCH, or the Red (fl. 1328–1405), Welsh bard, whose real name is said to be Edward Llwyd, was lord of Llechryd and resided at Coed Pantwn in Denbighshire, his mother, according to Gruffydd Hiraethog [q. v.], being the Countess of Lincoln. The recently extinct family of Pantons of Plasgwyn, Anglesey, traced its descent from Iolo. He is said to have received a university education, and to have taken the degrees of M.A. and Doctor of Laws. According to a statement in a late manuscript (printed in Iolo MSS. pp. 96, 491), he attended the last of the ‘three Eisteddfods of the Renascence’ of Welsh literature (Tair Eisteddfod Dadeni), which was held, probably in 1330, at Maelor (Bromfield), under the patronage and protection of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March. Dafydd ap Gwilym [q. v.] was the president, and Iolo was made a ‘chaired bard’ for his knowledge of the laws of poetry, his tutor being Ednyfed ab Gruffydd. Iolo must have been quite a young man at the time. A difficulty has been made as to his date, because he wrote an elegy on the death of Tudur ab Gronw, of the family of Ednyved Fychan of Penmynydd, Anglesey, who is said to have died in 1315; but it appears from a genealogical table of that family (Archæologia Cambrensis, 3rd ser. xv. 378) that there was another Tudur ab Gronw, who died in 1367 (Y Cymmrodor, v. 261–3), and the elegy probably referred to the latter. Iolo was a staunch friend of Owen Glendower [q. v.], who owned a neighbouring estate. When Owen was in the height of his glory he invited Iolo to stay at his house at Sycharth, which must have been before 2 May 1402, when it was burned by Hotspur; and after his visit the poet wrote a glowing description of the splendour of Owen's palace, comparing it with Westminster Abbey. On this account Iolo has often been erroneously described as Owen's family bard (Foulkes, Geiriadur Bywgraffyddol, p. 553) instead of his friend and neighbour. This poem is preserved in a manuscript volume in the British Museum, known as the ‘Book of Huw Lleyn’ (Add. MS. 14967), which is in the handwriting of Guttyn Owain, written prior to 1487. When Owen actually broke out into rebellion, Iolo, though in advanced years, poured forth stirring patriotic songs in his praise, and chief among them is one ‘composed with the view of stirring up his countrymen to support the cause of Owen’ (Welsh text in Jones, Gorchestion Beirdd Cymru, p. 79, English translation in Y Cymmrodor, vi. 98). Much of Owen's early success may be justly attributed to the enthusiasm created by Iolo's stirring verses. The appearance of a comet in March 1402 (Walsingham, Hist. Anglicana, ii. 248) was made the subject of a poem by Iolo, in which he prophesied Owen's coming triumph (Jones, Gorchestion, p. 84). In another poem, possibly the last he ever wrote, he lamented the mysterious disappearance of Owen in 1412, though he still foretold his ultimate success (ib. p. 81; see English translation in Y Cymmrodor, iv. pt. ii. pp. 230–2). He probably died soon afterwards [see Glendower, Owen].

Besides the numerous poems inspired by the political events of his time, much devotional verse was composed by Iolo. Seven of his poems were published in ‘Gorchestion Beirdd Cymru,’ edited by Rhys Jones. An elegy on Dafydd ap Gwilym was printed in that poet's works edited by Owen Jones in 1789. In 1877 the Rev. Robert Jones [q. v.] commenced to publish a complete edition of Iolo's poems for the Cymmrodorion Society, but he died when thirteen only had been printed, two of which had previously been published in Jones's ‘Gorchestion.’ Only eighteen of Iolo's poems have therefore been printed. One hundred and twenty-eight poems by him are mentioned as scattered throughout different volumes of the Myvyrian collection in the British Museum (Add. MSS. 14962–15089), but some of these are probably duplicates. There are many at Peniarth, particularly in Hengwrt MSS. 253 a, 330, 356, and 361, and three are also included in the ‘Red Book of Hergest.’ Iolo is said to have written a history of the three principalities of Wales (Jones, Poetical Relicks of Welsh Bards, ed. 1794, p. 87), but this has long since been lost.

[Williams's Eminent Welshmen; Hans Llenyddiaeth y Cymry, by G. ab Rhys, pp. 127–135.]

D. Ll. T.