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16 October 2014

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Eisteddfod guide brought to you by Catchphrase

A Brief History
vintage photo of ArchdruidThe Eisteddfod Genedlaethol was established in 1176.

Arglwydd Rhys was said to have sponsored the first Eisteddfod which was held at Aberteifi Castle. Bards and musicians came from all over Wales to compete for the Chair.

The Gorsedd of the Bard Ceremony
The word Gorsedd is used to describe a gathering of Bards and literally means 'high seat'. The ceremony itself was founded by Iolo Morgannwg in 1792 at Primrose Hill, London. He then introduced the ceremony to the Eisteddfod in the Ivy Bush Inn in Carmarthen in 1819 where it was established as the formal Eisteddfod ceremony. Gorsedd members wear different-coloured robes. Bards wear blue, Ovates wear green amd Druids wear white.

In 1880 a society for the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol was established and it set about making the Eisteddfod a yearly festival.

The Gorsedd of the Bard Ceremony has introduced many talented poets to Wales through the years. Here are some of them:

In 1902 the strict metre poem called 'Ymadawiad Arthur' (Arthur Leaving) was won be the now famous Welsh poet T. Gwyn Jones. This was at the prime of the Romantic Age and this ode (strict metre poem) brought Romanticism to the forefront of the Eisteddfod and to Welsh Literature.

It was in 1917 that the famous poet, Hedd Wyn won the chair for his poem 'Yr Arwr' (The Hero). He reluctantly served in the First World War and managed to get his poem sent past letter-censoring from France. Tragically, he died six weeks before the announcement that he'd won the Chair at this Eisteddfod in Birkenhead, England. (Yes, Eisteddfodau used to be held in England too.)

Historical circumstances have always inspired Welsh poets. The closure of the slate and coal mines in the late Fifties is reflected in Gwilym R. Tilsley's 1957 winning poem 'Cwm Carnedd' (Carnedd Valley). The famous bard, Dic Jones also wrote about this era in his winning poem 'Cynhaeaf' (1969) when the romanticism of agriculture was lost.

Nowadays, north and south Wales take it in turns to host the Natonal Eisteddfod. This has been done successfully from the beginning of the Eisteddfod, apart from 1914 and 1940.

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