The Celtic Literature Collective

Arthur and the Porter
The Black Book of Carmarthen XXXI. 
From The Four Ancient Books of Wales

WHAT man is the porter?
Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr.1
Who is the man that asks it?
Arthur and the fair Cai.
How goes it with thee?
Truly in the best way in the world.
Into my house thou shalt not come,
Unless thou prevailest.
I forbid it.
Thou shalt see it.
If Wythnaint were to go,
The three would be unlucky
Mabon, the son of Modron,2
The servant of Uthyr Pendragon;
Cysgaint, the son of Banon;
And Gwyn Godybrion.
Terrible were my servants
Defending their rights.
Manawydan, the son of Llyr,
Deep was his counsel.
Did not Manawyd bring
Perforated shields from Trywruid?
And Mabon, the son of Mellt,
Spotted the grass with blood?
And Anwas Adeiniog,
And Llwch Llawynnog--Guardians were they
On Eiddyn Cymminog,
A chieftain that patronised them.
He would have his will and make redress.
Cai entreated him,
While he killed every third person.
When Celli was lost,
Cuelli was found; and rejoiced
Cai, as long as he hewed down.
Arthur distributed gifts,
The blood trickled down.
In the hail of Awarnach,
Fighting with a hag,
He cleft the head of Paiach.
In the fastnesses of Dissethach,
In Mynyd Eiddyn,
He contended with Cynvyn;
By the hundred there they fell,
There they fell by the hundred,
Before the accomplished Bedwyr.
On the strands of Trywruid,
Contending with Garwlwyd,
Brave was his disposition,
With sword and shield;
Vanity were the foremost men
Compared with Cai in the battle.
The sword in the battle
Was unerring in his hand.
They were stanch commanders
Of a legion for the benefit of the country- Bedwyr and Bridlaw;
Nine hundred would to them listen;
Six hundred gasping for breath
Would be the cost of attacking them.
Servants I have had,
Better it was when they were.
Before the chiefs of Emrais
I saw Cai in haste.
Booty for chieftains
Was Gwrhir among foes;
Heavy was his vengeance,
Severe his advance.
When he drank from the horn,
He would drink with four.
To battle when he would come
By the hundred would he slaughter;
There was no day that would satisfy him.
Unmerited was the death of Cai.
Cai the fair, and Llachau,3
Battles did they sustain,
Before the pang of blue shafts.
In the heights of Ystavingon
Cai pierced nine witches.
Cai the fair went to Mona,
To devastate Llewon.
His shield was ready
Against Oath Palug
When the people welcomed him.
Who pierced the Cath Palug?
Nine score before dawn
Would fall for its food.
Nine score chieftains...

[here the manuscript breaks off]

1. Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr: "Glwelwyd Mighty-grasp" goes on to become Arthur's porter, as seen in the three romances, plus "Culhwch" and "Rhonabwy"
2. Mabon: who is the prisoner to be released from Caer Llowy (Gloucester) in "Culhwch"
3. Cai... and Llachau: In Y Seint Greal (the Welsh version of Perlesvaus: The High History of the Holy Grail), Cai kills Llachau out of envy for the younger man's prowess (moreover, Llachau was Arthur's son and presumed heir; killing him paved the way for Mordred).

The poem is a dialogue between Arthur--who seems not a king but the leader of a war band--and Glewlwyd; in fact, it parallels Culhwch's attempt to enter Arthur's court, with the listing of Arthur's warriors.

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