Aneirin


Aneirin, Aneurin or Neirin mab Dwywei (ca. 525 – 600) was a Brythonic poet, believed to have been a court poet or bard in one of the Brythonic kingdoms of southern Scotland. He wrote in Old Welsh, from which the modern Welsh language is descended. His work is preserved in the 13th century manuscript known as the Book of Aneirin, the language of which has been partially modernised into Middle Welsh.

His best known work is Y Gododdin, a series of elegies for the warriors of the northern British kingdom of Gododdin who fell against the Saxons in the Battle of Catraeth (possibly Catterick in Yorkshire or Dawstane in Liddlesdale) ca. 603, although the poems are very obscure and interpretations vary. One poem contains what is generally believed to be the earliest reference to Arthur as a paragon of bravery with whom one fallen warrior is compared. Aneirin is said to have fought in this battle and to have been taken prisoner.

Y Gododdin has been edited and translated by William Forbes Skene in his Four Ancient Books of Wales (1866), and by Thomas Stephens (1821-1875), published by the Cymmrodorion Society in 1888. Stephens believed the poet was a son of the 6th century historian Gildas. The first reliable edition was Canu Aneirin by Sir Ifor Williams with notes in Welsh, published in 1938. A new translation based on this work was published by Kenneth H. Jackson in 1969.

Aneurin Bevan, a 20th century Welsh politician, shared the poet’s name.