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the 'Hanes Taliesin' riddle-poem

translated by D.W. Nash

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he translation of the riddle-poem "Hanes Taliesin" below is reproduced exactly as printed in the book "The White Goddess" by Robert Graves. All spellings and use of upper and lower cases are as they appear in the book, which must rank as one of the most important contributions to our understanding of 'the triple goddess' concept that was a central feature of the beliefs of many ancient cultures. In archaic times this seems to have been a global phenomena, as attested to by the abundance of 'earth goddess' artifacts discovered all over the world. In many areas, where evidence of hurriedly abandoned settlement has shown the existence of past civilisation, some of these figurines would have been treasured possessions.

She was the personification of the Earth at its different seasons, and the various names of the 'the triple goddess' commonly used in many ancient cultures are names that are descritptive of the Earth at those seasons. The interaction between the 'Earth Mother' and the 'Sky Father' throughout the course of the natural (solar) year was a matter of great concern to ancient peoples all over the world, and was the focus of their cosmologies, which governed their science and religion. It is not surprising therefore that their oral traditions are steeped in sky lore, which, when de-coded, is increasingly proving to contain the accurate observations of ancient skywatchers, as is evident in the riddle-poem below.

"Hanes Taliesin"

1. "An impartial Chief Bard
Am I to Elphin.
My accustomed country
Is the land of the Cherubim.

2. Johannes the Diviner
I was called by Merddin,
At length every King
Will call me Taliesin.

3. I was nine months almost
In the belly of the hag Ceridwen;
I was at first little Gwion,
At length I am Taliesin.

4. I was with my Lord
In the highest sphere,
When Lucifer fell
Into the depths of Hell.

5. I carried the banner
Before Alexander.
I know the names of the stars
From the North to the South.

6. I was in Caer Bedion
I conveyed Heon [the Divine Spirit]
Down to the vale of Ebron.

7. I was in Canaan
When Absalom was slain;
I was in the Hall of Dn
Before Gwydion was born.

8. I was in the horse's crupper
Of Eli and Enoch;
I was on the high cross
Of the merciful Son of God.

9. I was the chief overseer
At the building of the tower of Nimrod;
I have been three times resident
In the castle of Arianrhod.

10. I was in the Ark
With Noah and Alpha;
I saw the destruction
Of Sodom and Gomorrah.

11. I was in Africa [Asia?]
Before the building of Rome;
I am now come here
To the remnants of Troia.

12. I was with my King
In the manger of the ass;
I supported Moses
Through the waters of Jordan.

13. I was in the Firmament
With Mary Magdalene;
I obtained my inspiration
From the cauldron of Caridwen.

14. I was Bard of the harp
To Deon of Llychlyn;
I have suffered hunger
With the son of the Virgin.

15. I was in the White Hill
In the hall of Cynvelyn,
In stocks and fetters
A year and a half.

16. I have been in the buttery
In the land of the Trinity;
It is not known what is the nature
Of its meat and its fish.

17. I have been instructed
In the whole system of the universe;
I shall be till the day of judgement
On the face of the earth

18. I have been in an uneasy chair
Above Caer Sidin,
And the whirling round without motion
Between three elements.

19. Is it not the wonder of the world
That cannot be discovered?"


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