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The Poet and Litterateur


Elfed won the first prize at the National Eisteddfod when he was 20 years old in Caernarfon for composing a series of 'englynion' (short form poem using rhymes, syllables and 'cynghanedd') on the subject 'Saith Tymor Dyn'(Seven Seasons of a Man). At the London National Eisteddfod in 1887 he won an essay on the subject of 'Eighteenth-Century Welsh Poetry'.


The Wrexham National Eisteddfod of 1888 proved to be extremely fruitful for Elfed. He won the Crown for a 'pryddest' (a long Free Verse) on the subject of 'Saboth yng Nghymru' (Sabbath in Wales) as well as winning a love-song poem on the subject of 'Llyn y Morwynion' (The Lake of the Maids) and an essay on 'The Genius of John Ceiriog Hughes'.


The following year at the Brecon National Eisteddfod he won the Crown on the brief of heroism with 'Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf' (Llywelyn ap Gruffudd) and then the Chair at the 1894 Caernarfon National Eisteddfod for an 'Awdl' (long poem on a single end-rhyme with a 'Cynghanedd') on the subject of 'Hunanaberth'(Self-sacrifice).


During his period as Archdruid of the Eisteddfod from 1923 to 1927 he received the Duke and Duchess of York, the prospective King George VI and his wife, as members of the 'Gorsedd'

Elfed was thought to be heavily influenced by the romanticism of Islwyn and John Morris-Jones as well as the English Romanticists. Many volumes of his poetry have been published in both languages. His two volumes of Caniadau in 1895 and 1901 are regarded as his most important. They were republished in one volume in 1909.


His lyrics about nature's tassels proved popular especially poems such as 'Gwyn ap Nudd' and 'Pan Ddaw'r Nos'. It is said that the Bishop of Llandaff, Thomas Rees, as well as Brynach, a teacher of poets on the Pembrokeshire-Carmarthenshire border, would recite the pryddest 'Gorsedd Gras'. That pryddest gave the Chair to Elfed at the Barmouth Easter Eisteddfod in 1887.


At one time his articles on literary subjects were published regularly in 'Y Genhinen' in the tradition of Charles Ashton and Thomas Stephens. He greatly admired Ceiriog's work and a volume of his was published under the title of John Ceiriog Hughes's Genius in 1899. Another volume of his was the Welsh Catholic Poetry of the Fifteenth Century published in 1912.

Elfed was for a time the editor of Y Dysgedydd, one of the Independents' publications. Many of his contributions give a valuable insight into the social life of his native area during his childhood as he talks about the Mari Lwyd and the characters of the area (see Memories page).

His English volumes include My Christ and Other Poems (1891), Israel and Other Poems (1930) and Songs of Assisi (1938).


Professor Thomas Parry testifies in his volume History of Welsh Literature (1944) that Elfed led the way as a free-lance poet and proved one of the stepping stones that led the poets' out of the nineteenth-century bog '.

Elfed in Archdruid regalia
Crown and chair (Elfed) winners of the Caernarfon eisteddfod of 1894
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