For today’s song of the day, I have a deliciously old nursery rhyme, or lullaby, for you. It possibly originates as far back as the 7th century. It was originally written in Old Welsh, and is interesting linguistically because it provides possible evidence of some features of the Cumbric language, which was a language closely related to Welsh or Breton, which was in use in Cumbria and southern Scotland until about the 12th century. It’s the lullaby of a mother who tells her baby son – Dinogad – about his dead father, and what a great hunter he was, while little Dinogad is wrapped in a smock made of marten skins. The poem also mentions “the waterfall of Derwennydd” which is thought to be a river called Derwent in the north of England. Unsurprisingly, the original tune has sadly not survived along with the poem, but the Welsh folk trio Ffynnon have set it to music. I have shared several songs by them on here before, but for anyone unfamiliar with their music, Ffynnon consists of Lynne Denman (vocals), Stacy Blythe (harp) and Emma Trend (fiddle). Their name means “fountain” in Welsh. They have also combined Pais Dinogad with two set of numbers from one to eight, where the first one is in Welsh, and the second one is the Cumbrian sheep-counting rhyme. Also in their version the number of slaves every time they’re mentioned is decreased, as is common in nursery rhymes.
I think the whole Pais Dinogad thing is very interesting, so in case you think so as well and have never heard of this lullaby, here is a long and exhaustive article on it from Wikipedia including a translation which I’m also pasting below.
Dinogad’s smock, speckled, speckled,
I made from the skins of Martens.
Whistle, whistle, whistly
we sing, the eight slaves sing.
When your father used to go to hunt,
with his shaft on his shoulder and his club in his hand,
he would call his speedy dogs,
“Giff, Gaff, catch, catch, fetch, fetch!”,
he would kill a fish in a coracle,
as a lion kills an animal.
When your father used to go to the mountain,
he would bring back a roebuck, a wild pig, a stag,
a speckled grouse from the mountain,
a fish from the waterfall of Derwennydd
Whatever your father would hit with his spear,
whether wild pig or lynx or fox,
nothing that was without wings would escape.