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Battle of the Trees (Cad Goddeu) translation from Robert Graves book The White Goddess

Translation from Robert Graves
book The White Goddess


My translation of the poem "Battle of the Trees" (Cad Goddeu) is based upon D. W. Nash's mid-victorian translation from Robert Graves book "The White Goddess".

I believe the poem's original lines are in the correct order but "pied" with approximately four other poems in order to hide its true meaning and significance. This being a teaching aid in the letters and the trees associated with each in one of the early Celtic alphabets as well as poetic plea for the continuance of the use and teaching of this alphabet. This alphabet utilized thirteen constantants and five vowels. The constantants form the thirteen months of the annual cycle, while the vowals set forth the five year cycle of this Celtic calender. The letters/trees within the poem are not set in their proper order, I believe, in a further attempt to "encode" the information given in the poem so that only a person versed in this alphabet could utilize it.


Cad Goddeu (Battle of the Trees)

Indifferent bards pretend, 29

They pretend a monstrous beast, 30

With a hundred heads, 31

And a grievious combat 32

At the root of the tongue. 33

And another fight there is 34

At the back of the head. 35

I was in Caer Fefynedd, 41

Thither were hastening grasses and trees. 42

Wayfarers perceive them, 43

Warriors are astonished 44

At a renewal of the conflicts 45

Such as Gwydion made. 46

Through charms and magic skill, 52

Assume the forms of the principal trees, 53

With you in array 54

Restrain the people 55

Inexperienced in battle. 56

When the trees were enchanted 57

There was hope for the trees, 58

That they should frustrate the intention 59

Of the surrounding fires.... 60

Chieftains are falling 61







Blood of men up to their buttocks

The alder-trees in the first line, F(4) 67

They made the commencement. 68

Willow and quicken (Rowen) tree, S(5) L(2) 69

They were slow in their array. 70

The birch,though very magnanimous, B(1) 84

Was late in arraying himself; 85

It was not through cowardice, 86

But on account of his great size. 87

The appearance of the .... (Ivy) G(11) 88

Is that of a foreigner and a savage. 89

The pine-tree (Yew) in the court, I(Old Lord) 90

Strong in battle, 91

By me greatly exalted 92

In the presence of Kings, 93

The elm-trees are his subjects. A(Maiden) 94

He turns not aside the measure of a foot, 95

But strikes right in the middle, 96

And at the farthest end. 97

The hazel is the judge. C(9) 98

The privet (Vine) is blessed. M(10) 100

The holly dark green, T(8) 104

He was very courageous: 105

Defended with spikes on every side, 106

Wounding the hands. 107

The long-enduring poplars E(Crone) 108

Very much broken in fight. 109

The furze was not well behaved O(Young Lord) 112

Until he was tamed. 113

The heath was given consolation, U(Mother) 114

Comforting the people. 115

The .... (Reed) was pursuing. NG(12) 116

The oak-tree swiftly moving, D(7) 117

Before him tremble heaven and earth, 118

Stout doorkeeper against the foe 119

Is his name in all lands. 120

Others were rejected 123

on account of the holes made 124

By great violence 125

In the field of battle. 126

Very wrathful the .... (Hawthorn and Elder) H(6) R(13) 127

Cruel the gloomy ash. N(3) 128

There shall be a black darkness, 131

There shall be a shaking of the mountain, 132

There shall be a purifying furnace, 133

There shall first be a great wave, 134

And when the shout shall be heard- 135

Putting forth new leaves are the tops of the beech, 136

Changing form and being renewed from a withered state; 137

Entangled are the tops of the oak. 138



joins with


maiden becomes


mother becomes


joins with

OLD LORD (Death)(I)

through death Crone becomes Maiden,
and so the cycle continues.


Year Letter Tree Aspect
Ailm A Silver Fir (Elm) Maiden
Onn O(T) Furze Young Lord
Ur U Heather (Heath) Mother
Eadha E White Poplar Crone
Idho I Yew Old Lord (Death)


Month Letter Tree
1. Samhain B (Beth) Birch
2. Nollaig L (Luis) Rowan
3. Eanair N (Nion) Ash
4. Feabhra F (Fearn) Alder
5. An Marta S (Saille) Willow
6. An T-Aibrean H (Uath) Hawthorn
7. An Bhealtanie D (Duir) Oak
8. An Meitheamh T (Tinne) Holly
9. Luil C (Coll) Hazel
10. Lunasa M (Muin) Vine
11. Mean Fhomhair G (Gort) Ivy
12. Deirach Fomhair P (Pethbc)/NG Drarf Elder/Reed
13. Off Calender R (Ruis) Elder (Only used every third year)

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