THE dissolution of the religious houses in Wales during the reign of
Henry VIII, and the dispersion of their libraries, led to many Welsh
manuscripts passing into the hands of private individuals. Collections
of Welsh manuscripts soon began to be formed by persons who took an
interest in the history and literature of their country. In the early
1600's many of the manuscripts came into the possession of Robert
Vaughan which he amassed at Hengwrt, his home, preserving many unique texts
which might otherwise have been lost. Later these become known as the Hengwrt-
Peniarth Collection (from the houses from which they were successively
preserved). They then formed the nucleus of the
National Library of Wales and are still in its care.

This is William Skene's anthology of dark-age Welsh Bardic poetry
sourced from this collection. Often cited, this book contains every
remaining piece of Bardic poetry known. The poems are translated from
HERGEST (source of the Mabinogion), THE BOOK OF TALIESSIN and THE BOOK
OF ANEURIN, all of which date from the twelfth to the fifteenth
centuries A.D. The poems themselves date from much earlier, probably
from the sixth century by internal evidence.

This volume is one of the treasures of world literature. It is also
the only true source material for the study of Bardic lore, which
reputedly preserved the impenetrable and arcane beliefs of the Druids.
Much of the subject matter is related to mead-inspired battles,
particularly the renowned Gododin cycle. However, the poetry rises
above the gory combat to achieve an artistic height that would not be
reached again for many centuries. The poems are infused throughout
with mystic clarity, strange flashes of wisdom, and insight into
humanity and nature.

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