Prys, Edmund (DNB00)

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PRYS, EDMUND (1541?–1624), translator of the psalms into Welsh verse, born about 1541, was son of Sion (John) ap Rhys of Tyddyn Du in the parish of Maen Twrog, Merionethshire, and his wife, Sian (Jane), daughter of Owain ap Llywelyn. On 16 March 1569 he entered St. John's College, Cambridge (Baker, Hist. of St. John's College, ed. Mayor). On 14 March 1572-3 he became rector of Festiniog, with its chapelry of Maen Twrog, and on 5 Nov. 1576 archdeacon of Merioneth. About the same time, apparently, he became chaplain to Sir {{DNB lkpl|Sidney, Henry (1529-1586)|Henry Sidney [q. v.], lord president of Wales (Bygones, 2 April 1873). On 16 April 1580 there was added to the living he already held the rectory of Llanenddwyn with its chapelry of Llanddwywe, and on 8 Oct. 1602 he was made a canon cursal (second canonry) of St. Asaph.

Prys was a skilful composer in the strict Welsh metres, and took an active part in the bardic life of his time. He engaged in the usual duels of satiric verse, crossing swords with his neighbours, Thomas Price (fl. 1586-1632) [q. v.], Sion Phylip [q. v.], Waelod, and William Cynwal of Penmachno. The last encounter has become especially famous in Welsh literary history, owing to its length (fifty-four poems on both sides), and the fact that the archdeacon's adversary died while it was proceeding. But Prys's reputation rests on his translation of the psalms into free Welsh verse, suitable for congregational singing. A rendering of the psalms into the strict metres by Captain William Myddelton [q. v.] had been issued in 1603, and a freer translation of thirteen by Edward Kyffin had appeared in the same year. In 1621, however, to a new issue of the Welsh version of the Book of Common Prayer was appended Prys's translation of the whole of the psalter. He deliberately rejected the bardic metres, in which he was a finished writer, in order to adapt his work for popular use, and his verses in consequence acquired a popularity which has not yet vanished; many of them are still regularly sung in Welsh places of worship.

Prys is mentioned by Dr. William Morgan [q. v.] as one of three who rendered him considerable assistance in the preparation of his translation of the Bible (1588). Dr. John Davies (1570?-1644) [q. v.] also addressed to him the preface to his grammar (Antiquae Linguae Britannicae, &c., 1621), which is followed by a poetical 'rescriptum' from the archdeacon's pen, in the title to which he speaks of himself as 'senis octagenarii.' He died in 1624, and was buried in Maen Twrog church. He was twice married: first, to Ellen, daughter of John ap Lewis of Pengwern, Festiniog, by whom he had a son John and a daughter Jane; secondly, to Gwen, daughter of Morgan ap Lewis of Fronheulog (his first wife's cousin), by whom he had two sons, Foulk and Morgan.

At least nineteen editions of the 'Salmau Can' are believed to have appeared, chiefly in editions of the Bible. The 'Blodeugerdd' (1759) contains a poem ('Cydsain Cerddorion ynglyn Helicon') by Edmund Prys (pp. 340-2); many of his 'cywyddau,' e.g. the elegy to Sion Phylip (Brython, iv. 142), some of the poems of the conflict with William Cynwal (Ceinion Llenyddiaeth Gymreig, ii. 284-312), the 'cywydd' to Sion Tudur (Enwogion y Ffydd, i. 67), and one to Sion Phylip (ib. p. 68) have been printed, but the bulk are still in manuscript, very many being in the Cymrodorion manuscripts in the British Museum.

[Dwnn's Heraldic Visitations, ii. 285, 215-6, 227; Geninen, 1884, p. 153; Hanes Llenyddiaeth Gymreig, by Gweirydd ap Rhys, pp. 314-22; Browne Willis's St. Asaph, i. 233-5; Ashton's Esgob Morgan, pp. 166-9; Gwyddionadur, s. v. Edmund Prys; Hanes Plwyf Festiniog, by G. J. Williams (Wrexham, 1882), pp. 59, 153, 228-31.]

J. E. L.