The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,207 pages of information about The Age of Fable.


The authors to whom the oldest Welsh poems are attributed are Aneurin, who is supposed to have lived A.D. 500 to 550, and Taliesin, Llywarch Hen (Llywarch the Aged), and Myrddin or Merlin, who were a few years later.  The authenticity of the poems which bear their names has been assailed, and it is still an open question how many and which of them are authentic, though it is hardly to be doubted that some are so.  The poem of Aneurin entitled the “Gododin” bears very strong marks of authenticity.  Aneurin was one of the Northern Britons of Strath-Clyde, who have left to that part of the district they inhabited the name of Cumberland, or Land of the Cymri.  In this poem he laments the defeat of his countrymen by the Saxons at the battle of Cattraeth, in consequence of having partaken too freely of the mead before joining in combat.  The bard himself and two of his fellow-warriors were all who escaped from the field.  A portion of this poem has been translated by Gray, of which the following is an extract: 

    “To Cattraeth’s vale, in glittering row,
    Twice two hundred warriors go;
    Every warrior’s manly neck
    Chains of regal honor deck,
    Wreathed in many a golden link;
    From the golden cup they drink
    Nectar that the bees produce,
    Or the grape’s exalted juice. 
    Flushed with mirth and hope they burn,
    But none to Cattraeth’s vale return,
    Save Aeron brave, and Conan strong,
    Bursting through the bloody throng,
    And I, the meanest of them all,
    That live to weep, and sing their fall.”

The works of Taliesin are of much more questionable authenticity.  There is a story of the adventures of Taliesin so strongly marked with mythical traits as to cast suspicion on the writings attributed to him.  This story will be found in the subsequent pages.


The Triads are a peculiar species of poetical composition, of which the Welsh bards have left numerous examples.  They are enumerations of a triad of persons, or events, or observations, strung together in one short sentence.  This form of composition, originally invented, in all likelihood, to assist the memory, has been raised by the Welsh to a degree of elegance of which it hardly at first sight appears susceptible.  The Triads are of all ages, some of them probably as old as anything in the language.  Short as they are individually, the collection in the Myvyrian Archaeology occupies more than one hundred and seventy pages of double columns.  We will give some specimens, beginning with personal triads, and giving the first place to one of King Arthur’s own composition: 

   “I have three heroes in battle: 
    Mael the tall, and Llyr, with his army,
    And Caradoc, the pillar of Wales.”

“The three principal bards of the island of Britain:—­
  Merlin Ambrose
  Merlin the son of Mprfyn, called also Merlin the Wild,
  And Taliesin, the chief of the bards.”

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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