The Bards

No National Eisteddfod may be held unless proclaimed a year and a day in advance by the Gorsedd of Bards. The proclamation takes place within the Gorsedd Circle 'in the face of the sun, the eye of light'. The Gorsedd of Bards can be traced to the late 1700's and no claims of Druidic ancestry is made for the Gorsedd. The principal dignitary of the Gorsedd of Bards is the Archdruid. The first of the Archdruids seems to have been Taliesin ab Job, who won the Chair at the Cardiff Eisteddfod in 1834 for his ode to "Y Derwyddau".

 

The earliest Eisteddfod probably occurred in 1172, although there are rumors of earlier meetings held in attempts to regulate the growth of many inferior poets all striving to become a 'pencerdd' (chief poet). The earliest of the Welsh bards is of record in the sixth century. Taliesin was 'pencerdd' at the court of Urien (c. 570-590 A.D.) and wrote poems praising his patron. He also praised the hospitality of Other courts in Wales. Aneirin was chief poet at the court of Mynyddog Mwynfawr in the land south of the Firth of Forth. He, too, wrote of the heroic deeds of his chief.

 

The poet always held an exalted position among the Welsh and his highest achievement was to become the chief poet at the court of a wealthy prince or king. The symbol of the Bardic Chair probably came from the fact that the 'pencerdd' sat next to the king. This exalted position resulted in considerable rivalry and many poets attempted to obtain this exalted position. Many studied under older and superior poets in order to learn the complicated rules cynghanedd, or the system of aliteration in Welsh poetry. Eventually, since this was similar to a craft in that it was the poet's livelihood, it was inevitable that a type of guild was formed. This led to the formation of three orders of bards; Pencerdd, the chief poet, bardd tellu, or family poet, and, lastly, cerddor or minstrel. By law the Pencerdd was described as "a bard who has won the chair." He exercised authority over the lesser bards. When Wales lost its independence in 1282, these legal rights disappeared.

 

While the word "eisteddfod" has had many meanings over the centuries, its most general meaning has emerged as a gathering of bards or poets. It was a meeting where bards were examined and approved or rejected, the epitome being the 'chairing of the bard.' The death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd brought an end to the exalted position of the 'Pencerdd' in the princely courts. The poets themselves met at irregular intervals and attempted to maintain the rules and standards that had been developed over the years. These meetings probably laid the foundation for the present day Eisteddfod.

 

The Reverend Dr. Thomas C. Edwards won a number of bardic chairs for poetry and music; one of these chairs is shown here. The poem which won this chair was titled 'Y Mayflower' and was written for the 1876 Eisteddfod using the bardic name "Cynonfardd". In 1913 at a Gorsedd held in Pittsburgh, Pa., Dr. Edwards was invested Archdruid of America. The investiture was made by Dyfed, Archdruid of the British Isles. In 1927 a Bard was Chaired at the Cynonfardd Eisteddfod in Edwardsville, Pa. The epic poem was 'The Conversion of Paul' and was written by Mr. John A. Thomas of Edwardsville. He used the pen-name "Aratus" Mr. Thomas was unable to attend the session since he was involved in the investigation of a very serious mine disaster at a shaft of the Glen Alden Coal Company. The chair was donated by Cynonfardd and was hand carved locally. This was the last chairing at the Edwardsville Eisteddfod.

 

Bardic Chair won by Cynonfardd in 1876.

The chair will be on display during the1983 National Gymanfa Ganu.

Last bardic chair won in the Cynonfardd Eisteddfod

. Won in 1927 by Mr. John A. Thomas of Edwardsville.