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Tenth-Century Wales and Armes Prydein by Helen Fulton The early Welsh tradition of prophecy is based on announcements of apocalyptic change, a radical overhaul of the existing status quo and the sweeping in of a new order of political freedom for the Welsh people. Such momentous changes are necessarily accompanied by violence, chaos, and world-turned-upside-down madness, comparable only to the portents preceding the day of judgment. The mid-tenth century prophetic poem, Armes Prydein ('The Prophecy of Britain'), from the Book of Taliesin, shares the conventional themes and imagery of other early prophetic poems found in the Book of Taliesin, the Black Book of Carmarthen, the Red Book of Hergest and Peniarth 50. The poem rails against the English, who have stolen British territory and demanded tribute, and prophesies the expulsion of the English from Britain entirely, thanks to the efforts of two legendary British heroes, Cynan and Cadwaladr, whose armies will, after the inevitable chaos and bloodshed, lead the Welsh to victory.2 With the Saxons driven back across the sea, the Welsh and their fellow Britons will once more be the rightful rulers of Britain. In plucking this poem from its manuscript context and editing it as a single text, Ifor Williams constructed Armes Prydein as a unique and singular text, 1 The poem was edited by Ifor Williams in 1955 and an English version by Rachel Bromwich appeared in 1972, Armes Prydein: The Prophecy of Britain (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies), hereafter cited as AP. On the prophetic material in the Book of Taliesin and the Black Book of Carmarthen, see Peter Goodrich (ed.), The Romance of Merlin (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1990); Marged Haycock, 'Taliesin's Questions', Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 33 (1997), 19-80; Haycock, Blodeugerdd Barddas o Ganu Crefyddol Cynnar (Llandybie: Cyhoeddiadau Barddas, 1994); Haycock, 'Llyfr Taliesin: Astudiaethau ar Rai Agweddau' (unpublished PhD dissertation, Aberystwyth: University of Wales, 1983); M. E. Griffiths, Early Vaticination in Welsh with English Parallels (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1937). The prophetic material in the Red Book of Hergest and Peniarth 50 ('Y Cwta Cyfarwydd') has been edited and discussed by Manon Bonner Jenkins, 'Aspects of the Welsh Prophetic Verse Tradition in the Middle Ages' (unpublished PhD dissertation, Cambridge; 1990). 2 According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Cynan was the legendary founder of the Celtic settle- ment in Brittany (see Rachel Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1961), 316-18). Cadwaladr was an heroic-age British leader (Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, 292-3). The two names are similarly paired in a number of other prophetic poems in the Book of Taliesin and the Black Book of Carmarthen, as well as in the Vita Merlini (AP, xxx-ii). David Dumville suggests that Cynan and Cadwaladr represent the Continental and Insular Britons respectively ('Brittany and Armes Prydein Vawr', Etudes Celtiques, 20 (1983), 156).