“To Her Husband for Beating Her” by Gwerful Mechain

Gwerful Mechain


Through your heart’s lining let there be pressed, slanting down,
A dagger to the bone in your chest.
Your knee smashed, your hand crushed, may the rest
Be gutted by the sword you possessed.

—translated from the Middle Welsh by A.M. Juster


from Rattle #55, Spring 2017

[download audio]


Gwerful Mechain (fl. 1460–1502), who lived in Mechain in Powys, is among the most famous female Welsh-language poets. Little is known of her life, but it has been stated that she was a descendant of a noble family from Llanfechain. This englyn may be the earliest extant poem against domestic violence written by a woman. Note: Audio read by Lynne Rees.

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