minstrel: Definition of Bardic

Heather Rose Jones hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Wed Apr 23 11:41:20 PDT 1997


On Wed, 23 Apr 1997, Rex Deaver wrote:

> In the Brythonic celtic tongues, the word "bard" (or variation) meant simply
> "poet", but also implied musical talents, usually harp.  Thus, outside
> Gaelic areas, it *was* a more generic term.  

Although I haven't done an _exhaustive_ survey of the Welsh material,
there's an interesting twist that shows up in what I've seen. In the
medieval material (up through the 15th c., and also IIRC in the
early-medieval material), "bardd" is used primarily to refer to a
professional relationship. I.e., what makes you a "bardd" isn't what you
do, but the fact that you do it _for_ someone. The usual word for poet --
which can apply both to professional bards and to "amateur" (in the
technical sense) poets is "prydydd", which literally means
"maker/composer". The word for a "lower class" musical entertainer --
someone who is explicitly not a "bardd" and whose medium is popular
entertainment rather than praise-poetry and epics, is a "clerwr". So even
in period Welsh tradition, there really isn't a single generic term that
covers the vocal/musical performing arts.

Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn


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