Gwyddai beirdd Cymraeg enwau arwyr Gwyddelig megis Cu Chulainn a Deirdre ac am y testunau Gwyddelig a ddylanwadodd ar y Mabinogi, ond y mae maint y dylanwad Gwyddelig ar lenyddiaeth Gymraeg yr Oesoedd Canol wedi bod yn destun dadlau ers blynyddoedd lawer. Mae'r llyfr hwn yn cynnig ateb rhai o'r cwestiynau hyn.
Welsh poets knew the names of Irish heroes such as Cu Chulainn and Deirdre while Irish narratives influenced the Welsh Mabinogion, yet the degree of Irish influence has been debated for many years. This book is the first comprehensive estimation of the extent to which Irish literature influenced medieval Welsh literature.
This magisterial scholarly volume is the result of more than thirty years of intensive research by one of our foremost Celtic scholars who is Professor of Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University. He has published widely in this field for decades. Indeed, the very full bibliography of the sources he has used includes no fewer than forty-eight of his own publications, and he is so modest and honest a scholar as to have marked with an asterisk those which are by now dated and thus superseded by more recent research for the present awesome monograph.
The theme of the book is the influence of Ireland on Welsh literature and litterateurs throughout the Dark Ages and the mediaeval period. The story begins in the fifth century, when emigrants from Ireland first began to settle in Wales, and there is firm evidence of Irish scholars working within Wales during the ninth century. The author tells us that at this time Ireland suffered a veritable brain drain of its scholars, lured to the Continent by the promise of patronage, and driven by the depredations of the Vikings (p. 29). By the eleventh century, there were also Welsh scholars working in Ireland. The extant manuscripts combine the use of Latin with the vernacular in both countries.
Subsequently, there were regular links between the two nations – through the church, trade and military associations. In consequence Irish heroes like Cu Roi, Cu Chulainn, Finn and Deirdre became well-known to the poets of mediaeval Wales, and Sims-Williams shows clearly how the authors of the Welsh Mabinogion were much influenced by Irish narratives. Fascinating evidence is presented of the Irish influence on Culhwch and Olwen, which contains Irish personal names and place-names, and on Branwen. The stories of both were partly set in Ireland.
The borrowings from Irish literature are carefully delineated by Sims-Williams who suggests that there were fresh contacts between Wales and Ireland in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. He challenges the interpretations of earlier scholars who ventured into this field, including John Lloyd-Jones, Sir John Morris-Jones, T. Gwynn Jones and Sir Ifor Williams, and pays tribute to the work of scholars such as Cecile O’Rahilly and Proinsias Mac Cana and the ‘significant new evidence’ they unearthed of the Irish influences on Welsh literature. Sims-Williams concludes by asserting that there is definitely yet more evidence to be discovered in this area, and repeats his conviction that Irish influence never dominated Welsh literature but was certainly of some significance.
J. Graham Jones
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.