Myrddin Wyllt (DNB00)

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MYRDDIN Wyllt, i.e. the Mad (fl. 580?), Welsh poet, is in mediæval Welsh literature credited with the authorship of six poems printed in the ‘Myvyrian Archaiology,’ 2nd edit. pp. 104–18, 348. In two sets of the Triads he is styled Myrddin mab Morfryn, or ap Madog Morfryn (Myvyrian Archaiology, pp. 394, 411). The searching analysis of Thomas Stephens (Literature of the Kymry, 2nd edit. pp. 202–70), though needing revision in some of its details, has clearly shown that these Myrddin poems cannot be the work of any poet of the sixth century, and are in fact the product of the Welsh national revival of the twelfth and thirteenth. Stephens's assumption that the Myrddin Wyllt who is traditionally associated with the authorship of the poems is identical with Myrddin Emrys, i.e. Merlin or Merlinus Ambrosius [q. v.], the legendary enchanter, seems, on the other hand, improbable.

As early as the end of the twelfth century Giraldus Cambrensis sharply distinguishes ‘Merlinus Ambrosius’ (Myrddin Emrys), who was found at Carmarthen and prophesied before Vortigern, from another ‘Merlinus’ called ‘Silvester’ or ‘Celidonius,’ who came from the North (Albania), was a contemporary of Arthur, saw a horrible portent in the sky while fighting in a battle, and spent the rest of his days a madman in the woods. Each of the two legends appears to deal with a different person, and while it is the former legend which Geoffrey of Monmouth, in the ‘Historia Regum Britanniæ,’ connects with Merlin the enchanter, the latter legend supplies the basis of the ‘Vita Merlini,’ a work also attributed to Geoffrey. There is reason to believe, however, that Myrddin Wyllt was in no way connected with either of these Merlins, and that he may be identified with another person, who was probably called in his own lifetime Llallogan. Jocelyn of Furness, in his ‘Life of St. Kentigern’ (end of twelfth century), says that there was at the court of Rhydderch Hael, king of the Strathclyde Britons about 580, a fool named Laloicen, who had the gift of prophecy; and another fragment of a life of the same saint adds that some identified Laloicen with Merlin (Cymmrodor, xi. 47). Accordingly, in the dialogue entitled ‘Cyfoesi Myrddin a Gwenddydd ei Chwaer’ (Myvyrian Archaiology, 2nd edit. pp. 108–15), Gwenddydd addresses her brother (Myrddin or Merlin) as ‘Llallogan.’ It is not too much to assume that a bard named Llallogan lost his wits in connection with the battle of Arderydd (fought about 573, and traditionally associated with Myrddin Wyllt), and, wandering in the forest, was subsequently revered as a seer and prophet.

[Myvyrian Archaiology; Stephens's Literature of the Kymry; Giraldus Cambrensis' Itinerarium Cambriæ; cf. art. on Merlin.]

J. E. L.