Early Welsh Gnomic and Nature Poetry

Edited by Nicolas Jacobs

MHRA Library of Medieval Welsh Literature

Modern Humanities Research Association

1 March 2012

ISBN: 978-1-907322-58-7 (hardback)  •  RRP £21.99, $32.99, €27.50

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MedievalWelshPoetry


Rain outside, it wets the fern; white is sea-gravel, edged with foam; good sense is a fair candle for a man.

Rain outside, away from shelter; yellow is furze, withered is cow-parsley; Lord God, why did you make a coward?

Among the most enigmatic and fascinating of early Welsh poems are the sequences of stanzas commonly categorized as gnomic. In their most typical form they juxtapose vivid natural description with generalisations about the physical world and about human life, combining an evident delight in weather and the changing seasons, landscapes and seascapes, and birds, beasts and plants with a serious and often witty concern for the moral and practical aspects of daily life. The origin and function of these stanzas remains a puzzle; some may be associated with particular situations in narratives now lost, but as a whole they appear to have developed at an early stage into a recognised genre of their own. They may be supposed to have a philosophical purpose, serving to assert a continuity between the natural and moral orders; on the other hand they may be read simply as a repository of folk-wisdom. While their interpretation remains a matter for discussion, their language is comparatively simple, and they thus provide an engaging window on the ordinary conceptual world of mediaeval Wales. This volume presents texts of the gnomic stanzas from the most important collection, that in Red Book of Hergest, and from some other manuscripts, with a few other poems containing related material, some of them edited in English for the first time, together with a literary and linguistic introduction, explanatory commentary and extensive glossary.

Nicolas Jacobs is an Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.

Reviews:

  • ‘La simplicité des textes fait de ce livre une excellente introduction au gallois ancien.’ — Pierre-Yves Lambert, Etudes celtiques XXXIX, 2013, 330
  • ‘Nicolas Jacobs hat sehr gute Arbeit geleistet; sein Buch wird für lange Zeit die Standardedition dieser notorisch dunklen und schwierigen, aber vielleicht gerade eben deshalb so anziehenden Verse bleiben und darüber hinaus als mustergültiganerkannt sein. — Y gwaith a ganmol ei weithiwr!’ — Stefan Zimmer, Zeitschrift für celtisches Philologie 59, 2012, 271
  • ‘Mae Nicolas Jacobs a golygyddion y 'Library of Medieval Welsh Literature' yn haeddu ein diolchiadau gwresog am ailagor maes a esgeuluswyd yn rhy hir ac am wneud y corff hwn o farddoniaeth yn fwy hygyrch i fyfyrwyr ac ysgolheigion mwy profiadol fel ei gilydd. [Nicolas Jacobs and the editors of the Library of Medieval Welsh Literature deserve our warmest thanks for reopening a field of study which has been neglected too long and for making this body of poetry more accessible for students and more experienced scholars alike.]’ — Barry James Lewis, Dwned 18, 2012, 99-107

Contents:

i-iv
Front Matter
Nicolas Jacobs
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v-vi
Table of Contents
Nicolas Jacobs
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vii-viii
Preface
N.J.
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ix-xii
Abbreviations
Nicolas Jacobs
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xiii-xvi
Bibliography
Nicolas Jacobs
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xvii-xlvi
Introduction
Nicolas Jacobs
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1-32
TEXTS
Nicolas Jacobs
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33-78
Commentary
Nicolas Jacobs
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79-134
Glossary
Nicolas Jacobs
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135-138
Index To Commentary
Nicolas Jacobs
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Bibliography entry:

Jacobs, Nicolas (ed.), Early Welsh Gnomic and Nature Poetry, MHRA Library of Medieval Welsh Literature (Cambridge: MHRA, 2012)

First footnote reference: 35 Early Welsh Gnomic and Nature Poetry, ed. by Nicolas Jacobs, MHRA Library of Medieval Welsh Literature (Cambridge: MHRA, 2012), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Jacobs, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Jacobs, Nicolas (ed.). 2012. Early Welsh Gnomic and Nature Poetry, MHRA Library of Medieval Welsh Literature (Cambridge: MHRA)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Jacobs 2012: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Jacobs 2012: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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