Deliberately old-fashioned language in 'Darogan'

I’ve just received and started reading the novel Darogan by Siân Llywelyn. The language of the first few pages is straightforward enough, but at the end of the prologue a character comes out with something that I think is not merely literary but deliberately old-fashioned looking. I wanted to check if my understanding of it is correct.

The quotation is: Collasom ein gwir… yna’n waglaw, ein naid… a roesom â bradwrus groesaw. Gwir yw yn ymgyweiriaw.

First things first: the character to whom this is said is confused, and doesn’t understand the sense of it in the context, so it appears that it isn’t meant to be transparent even to a native speaker at this point. I imagine that as I keep reading, at some point it’ll become clearer: if you’ve already read the book and can confirm (no spoilers!), that’d be great. I’ve also tried searching online for bits of the quotation, and nothing comes up (in the way that if I’d searched for collasant eu gwaed I’d expect to find the national anthem), so I think it isn’t a quotation that native speakers would be expected to know already.

Secondly, I know that collasom is just perfectly good Literary Welsh for “we lost”, but I’m getting the impression from the spellings groesaw and ymgyweiriaw instead of groeso etc. that this is meant to come across as Olde-Worlde, not just formal and highfalutin’. Does that sound right?

Thirdly… I’m a bit lost as to what on Earth it all means. “We lost our truth(?)… then, empty-handed, our opportunity… which we gave(?) with a treacherous welcome. Justice/truth is in correcting/preparing yourself(???).” Definitely more than a bit lost… Help welcomed!

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Maybe ein naid is same as ein enaid which makes more sense?

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I’m not sure I can completely answer this for you Rich, but here’s my take on it.

The spellings certainly reminded me of medieval Welsh that I studied briefly (very briefly!) at Uni, so I started looking at that. The last line of the quote is very reticent of one of the lines in a 13th century elegy by Gruffudd ab Yr Ynad Coch which appeared in the Red Book of Hergest, but it’s not actually part of that elegy. The spelling and style of the whole quote, though, is, I’d say, definitely designed to reflect that period.

As for the translation, it’s a bit of an enigma without context, but my best guess would be along the lines of:

We lost our justice/entitlement
there our gwaglaw*, our destiny…
that we welcomed with a deceitful/conspiring/disloyal welcome/reception.
Truth/right is in repair.

*gwaglaw is a term for a freeholder who claims all his land and who then dispossesses himself wholly and is consequently fined 10 shillings for doing so - someone fined for completely alienating himself from his inheritance of land.

…so I really hope “all is revealed” later in the novel - it is rather intriguing! Do let us know!


Maybe ymgyweiriaw could mean punishment, as in house of correction?

If you look up ymgyweirio in GPC it just says ym + cyweirio which seems most unhelpful, particularly given that cyweirio has quite a range of meanings. But the book I got for Xmas (Manawydan Jones - Y Pair Dadeni) was teenfic which was enjoyable enough, but finished by New Year: this feels like a better level, except where it decides to randomly lurch into Middle Welsh. As Siaron says, hopefully all will eventually be revealed :slight_smile:


Good translation, although I have seen “yn waglaw” used to mean ‘empty-handedly’ which is a mouthful even in engllish lol

My immediate thought is that you have chosen the wrong book to read. I am a very avid reader of Welsh books and even I can’t understand that, it is clearly not a book aimed at those learning Welsh. So, throw it away! Reading is very important in learning a language and a book, at the right level, can make a huge difference to your confidence. And the opposite is also true.
The Lolfa, a publisher based in Tal-y-Bont sells books aimed at Welsh learners and have a series of books which I lend to learners called ‘Stori Sydyn’ (Quick Read). they are about 100 pages long and are only £1 each (plus postage) . this particular book that I have in front of me is called ‘Arwyr Cymru’ -Welsh heroes. It informs you about the efforts of people in the past to keep the Welsh language and culture alive and we all owe a great deal to them. As with all Welsh books there is a very limited print run so you have to keep your eyes open and grab them when you can.
And now let me about The Wennol. It is a magazine that I started publishing three years ago and is available free of charge every month through your mail box - all 20 pages of it. All the articles are written by Welsh learners and they are suitable for those who are on the lowest foot of the ladder to those who are near proficiency. You also have an opportunity to try your own hand at a bit of writing too. Contact me on
And thank you for your efforts in learning Welsh.

Hi Rob – thank you for your advice, which I can see is well-intentioned, kindly meant, and broadly true. However, I wouldn’t be quite so quick to suggest throwing it away: it’s going to depend on where the learner is in their particular journey, and all sorts of other factors. I have read one of the Storïau Sydyn a few years ago – Y Dyn Oedd yn Gwybod Gormod, about the journalist Gareth Jones, who broke the story of the Holodomor – and it was very good; but you’ll see from the SSiW Book Club thread that many people do read books aimed at native speakers, too.

You’re absolutely right that Darogan is aimed at native speakers, rather than learners, but the little chunk of Middle Welsh that unexpectedly cropped up in it isn’t really representative. It’s mostly a fairly straightforward police procedural with added leylines, with a slightly Ben Aaronovitch-ish feel to it (although without the American Gods “old gods do new jobs” shtick of Ifan Morgan Jones’ Dadeni). It might appeal to others of us who’ve read and enjoyed Dadeni.

Language-wise, I’d say it’s probably a bit easier than Dadeni (certainly than Babel, which I found a bit of a wade, I’m afraid) and definitely a little harder than, say, Llechi. It’s got a few of the formal literary features of adult fiction – imperfects such as curai ei galon (her heart was beating); negatives such as ni chafodd ateb (he didn’t get an answer); impersonals in -id and -wyd (eg gellid, dallwyd); and the odd irregular past tense form (Rhoesant eu bagiau i lawr - they put their bags down - which I have a sneaking suspicion might be @garethrking’s old s-aorist).

But actually it’s pretty colloquial throughout, and if anything, I’d have thought that might give earlier-stage readers - especially Southern ones - a pause: there’s a certain amount of eye-dialect, especially for Gog characters, with spellings like Grynda (Gwranda, listen), Mae’r drws yn gorad (agored - the door’s unlocked), Pam aru chdi’m deu’tha fi? (Why didn’t you tell me?) and Ti 'tha dicshyneri Cymraeg, dwyt (no idea what 'tha is, but from context, ‘You’re like a walking Welsh dictionary, aren’t you?’).

I’m currently about halfway through, since Saturday, and thoroughly enjoying it. The Middle Welsh has just made a reappearance at around p100, but it’s clear that at least one of the main characters has no clue what on Earth it is. (“Something with a lot of g-sounds in it.”) I’ve skimmed ahead, and one of the protagonists tries to explain it to the other in about 60 pages’ time, so I guess I’ll get there (Gruffydd ab yr Ynad Coch gets namechecked, so tip o’ the hat to @siaronjames ). It’s nice to have fantasy that goes back to something other than the Mabinogi for once, too: there are references that you can follow up via Wikipedia to Canu Heledd , which led me to a series of englynion on Cynddylan’s hall - supposedly burnt in cross-border warfare between Powys and Mercia - that are still more or less readable and moving today, even though they’re originally so old that they go back to a time when Welsh didn’t put the verb first (i.e. practically Old Welsh cross-dressing in more modern orthography):
Stafell Gynddylan ys tywyll heno,
heb dan, heb wely.
Wylaf wers; tawaf wedy.

“Cynddylan’s hall is dark tonight,
without a fire, without a bed.
I shall weep a while; afterwards, be silent.”

So, yeah - safe to say I’m enjoying it!


I’d guess that tha comes from fatha which in turn comes from yr un fath â according to Ceri Jones’ book Dweud Eich Dweud


Ooh, good call! The same character says fatha elsewhere, which I was already OK with, but I hadn’t made that connection :slight_smile:

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I do apologise and I congratulate you on reaching such proficiency with the Welsh language. We desperately need more people such as yourself to ensure that the Welsh language survives. I am getting more and more disheartened as time goes by. I was born in Moelfre, sir Fôn in the mid 40s and the world was completely Welsh. My father was the local rector and we moved to South Pembrokeshire when I was 10 years old. Suddenly our world was totally English. I had to re-learn my Welsh when I was 35 and working in the English midlands. There was no local night school but I was near enough to the border to be able to receive Radio Cymru and I read Welsh books aimed at teenagers. My Welsh improved but I had not had much of an opportunity to speak Welsh and writing it was a far off dream. Then I saw an advert in Golwg for a creative writing course in Welsh. I was, at the time, running a very busy printing business but every Monday night I drove 50 miles to the Welsh Language Centre at Gregynog and then 50 miles back. I became a tutor and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This is when I started the first Wennol. Retirement brought me back to South Wales and my teaching came to an end.

Y Wennol had a rebirth at the start of Covid and I have been constantly amazed and encouraged by the enthusiasm of Welsh learners, circulation of Y Wennol is growing weekly and I am of the firm belief that it is the enthusiasm of learners that will save the language. But only if we could establish a route from the classroom to the community, huge opportunities are being lost each year. The results of the Census, now being analysed to death, show that decline but none of these analysts mention the role that adult learners could play. I have not been silent on that point.

So thank you once again for reaching such proficiency with Welsh and I really hope that you have found your way into the Welsh community.

May I take this opportunity to ask you if you would like to receive Y Wennol each month. If so just send me your email address.

Best wishes

Rob Evans


Thank you for your kind reply, although the thing with any degree of proficiency in a language whose adult native speakers are essentially all bilingual is that it never feels enough. Certainly, in my case, it wouldn’t feel enough to attempt to teach it to others, so you’ve far outstripped me there. (I, too, read books aimed at teenagers: they often mean that I can zoom through with pretty much no recourse at all to the dictionary. Although that’s not really a challenge, sometimes it’s nice to be able to relax and enjoy the the language without feeling that it has to be a challenge.)

I should probably send you my email address, as I know you’ve managed to solicit some writing from other learners here in Rhydychen, and I should really do them the courtesy of reading it!

With regard to my original question, it turns out that the characters are mostly fairly mystified by the verse quoted (although not half as much as I was), and that elucidating it is a fairly major part of the plot towards the end of the book. I think it’s meant to niggle native speakers, on the edge of comprehensibility – and then in the end it does get (mostly) explained, but there is a limit to how much I can say about it without spoilers.

However, keeping their in-context explanations of the words “gwir” and “naid” concealed for other readers’ sake, I can say that I think I’ve got the structure of the first two lines. The author likes the old irregular past tense rhoes etc. for rhoddodd - she uses it in her narrator’s voice in rhoesant eu bagiau i lawr, and so I’m fairly sure that roesom is from rho(dd)i rather than from groeso (by-form of croesawu to welcome). I tried looking for the collocation rhoi â, and although I didn’t find too many relevant hits, I did get a few where the phrase seems to have the force of something like “to provide smne with sthg” – for example Diolch i Age Better Sheffield, cafodd Margaret ei rhoi â Josie, gwirfoddolwr a trefnodd… or …mae gan ranbarth rai nodweddion arbennig sy’n ei rhoi â lefel awdurdodaeth uwch… (‘Thanks to Age Better, Margaret has been provided with Josie, a volunteer who organised…’ or ‘a region has some special characteristics which provides it with a higher level of authority’).

Putting that together with the fact that roesom has been softened following the relative a, I think what we’ve got here is what my grammar of the literary language calls a “Mixed sentence”, where part of the sentence comes first for emphasis, and the rest is constructed like a relative clause. This is all par for the course if what you’re saying is just Fi sy’ 'ma (I’m here! C’est moi!), but the grammar has examples such as Llythyr a roddais i iddo – It was a letter that I gave him. The first two lines therefore have a back-and-forth (chiastic) structure – “We lost our X, our Y we gave…” (Collasom ein gwir, yna’n waglaw / ein naid a roesom â bradwrus groesaw) – “We lost our X there (or ‘then’), empty-handed, our Y we gave a traitorous welcome.”

I’m still a bit lost on the structure of the last bit I quoted, though: it makes enough sense in the context of the book, but Gwir yw yn ymgyweiriaw still has me confused with that sequence of yw + yn – as if there’s some old-fashioned or highly literary syntactical structure I’m missing there. Anyway: good book, much enjoyed, now finished; I think I might look out for some others by the same author.


What can I say?

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Dwi’n cytuno â Richard…I speak English as a first language and would never want to teach people how to speak English grammatically… we will never feel good enough in any language :smiley:

I feel your pain though