His second bridge song, however, ‘Ateb i Gân y Bont’ (his answer to the first song), is both surprising and unexpected ; it is very different from the first.

The first song was written around the time when it was agreed that the cost of building and maintaining the bridge would be borne by the County, rather than the parishes bordering the river (i.e. Caron and Gwnnws). Apparently, the families of Trawsgoed (Crosswood), Nanteos and Mabws were very instrumental in procuring this concession [6] :

The first . . . son of David John Oliver, called here yesterday as drunk as a slater, who told me that he had no letter from you, but he had his message in his head ‘What is that’ said I? ‘Here it is’ said he, and sung out, with a loud voice, an excellent song made on Pontfendigaid.

Am Bont Rhyd-fendiged mae sôn mawr a synied,

Ar fyr cewch ei gweled mor dambed â’r dydd,

Fel Castell gwyn amlwg, goreulan i’r amlwg,

Neu gadwyn i fwnwg afonydd.

These two songs are also of interest in one other respect ; with the aid of these, and the correspondence between Edward Richard, Lewis Morris and Evan Evans (Ieuan Brydydd Hir) [8], it is possible to work out, with a fair degree of certainty, the year the bridge was actually built.

Gwna’r pentre’ mwyn serchog, tros fyth yn gyfoethog,

Wrth ddwyn yr ariannog yn llwythog i’r lle;

A phan elo’n athrist heb ddim yn eu ddwygist,

Hi helpa’r dyn didrist fyn’d adref.

By the assistance of the families of Crosswood, Nanteos and Mabws (particularly the last), it was carried at the quarter-sessions, that the erection and repairs lay on the county.

This must have been an unexpected but welcomed relief to the community and Edward Richard, in his first song, pays tribute to the representatives of the above families for their hospitality and friendly condescension [5] – in other words, for graciously lowering themselves to help  people less  important than themselves.  He exhort the freeholders and tenantry of the parishes . . . to fidelity and gratitude (see adjacent inset and reference [6]).

Lewis Morris’ letters, clearly, show that the first song (Cân y Bont) was written sometime in 1760. According to Saunders Lewis [7], it was usually during the respites from teaching that Edward Richard found leisure for poetry and, it seems likely, that he wrote the initial draft of Cân y Bont over the 1760 summer holidays. At that time, work on the bridge must have been at a fairly advanced stage ; the bard was looking forward to completion and he implies in his song that this is imminent (ar fyr cewch ei gweled). He is full of anticipation and optimism and he predicts economic prosperity for the little community.

Yes, yes ; and I have also received Canu’r bont.

. . . the Bridge poems is that they are in the measure of the later pastorals, and that they occasioned an interesting correspondence with Lewis Morris about poetic diction.

Jevoise and Breese may well be right that Pont Rhydfendigaid has no special or interesting physical features. However, it does have a notable and unique place in the history of Welsh literature, thanks to Edward Richard. He wrote two poems about the Bridge – ‘Cân y Bont’ (Song of the Bridge) and ‘Ateb i Gân y Bont’ (A Reply to the Song of the Bridge) [6]. These are considered to be the first of their kind in the Welsh language, and Saunders Lewis [7] says the significance of :

. . . Pontrhydfendiaid, (built between 1750-1777), where Edward Richard, Ystrad Meurig sings the praise of ‘Shon o Garon’ y Saer Maen, in his poem, ‘Cân y Bont’.

Incidentally, Rees is mistaken about Shon o Garon. Cân y Bont (Song of the Bridge) says that – the mason who built the bridge was Sion Ifan o Ystrad (y saer maen a gododd y bont oedd Sion Ifan o Ystrad) [6], while Sion o Garon was the man who quarried the stone for the bridge (Sion o Garon oedd y mwynwr a gloddiodd gerrig y bont).

Pont Rhydfendigaid 1811 (drawing by J.G.Wood)

Breese’s last remark about the age of the bridge is wide of the mark. J.G. Wood’s book,  the ‘Principal Rivers in Wales’ [3], includes a sketch of Pont Rhydfendigaid, drawn in 1811. CADW also contends that the bridge dates back to the 18th century [4]. However, exactly when it was built is a bit of a mystery. Ask local people and the answer, more than likely, will be blwyddyn y tair caib (the year of the three pickaxes), meaning 1777. D.C. Rees, in his book on Tregaron (1936) [5], claims that three of the stone bridges over the Teifi were built by his great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather, and that one of them was :

This . . . is a ‘humped’ single arch bridge built of small outcrop stones. It has no special features and is well under one hundred and fifty years old.

Gwyndaf Breese [2] likewise, in a recent publication, ‘The Bridges of Wales’, dismisses it in a couple of sentences :

In 1931-32, Edward Jervoise [1] undertook a survey of the ancient bridges in Wales and his findings were published in 1936. He looked at all the crossings spanning the river Teifi and he concluded that Pont Rhydfendigaid (the Bridge of the Blessed Ford) was neither ancient nor worthy of a mention. The Teifi, he said :

. . . passes near the ruins of . . . Strata Florida . . . None of the bridges in this district are of interest.

Forward

Caneuon y Bont (Songs of the Bridge) by Edward Richard

Maybe, at that time, the song was still in the draft stage and Edward Richard was not quite ready to send a copy to Lewis Morris for scrutiny. Whatever the explanation, it was the 11th February 1761 before Lewis Morris was able to affirm [11] :

Yr ail dudalen Page 2 Cynnwys Contents Adref Home

Gwŷr Gwnnws a Charon, cydunwch fel dynion,

Cewch felly’n gyfeillion, wŷr dewrion a dwys,

A sefwch yn ffyddlon tra’ Pont dros yr afon,

A meibion o feibion i Fabwys.

Mae etto le tirion, ei gofio fydd gyfion,

Yn llawn o gymdeithion hoff radlon a ffri,

Hir iechyd i’r achos, na welwyf mo’i wylnos,

Nac ёos Nanteos yn tewi.

Na weler ond hyny, ond haf ar lan Teifi,

Na drain, na mieri, na drysni ar droed,

Na chafod na chwmwl yn blino ar ein meddwl,

Na sôn am aer trwsgwl i’r Trawsgoed.

Edward Richard pays tribute to the families of Trawsgoed, Nanteos and Mabws for securing the bridge for the village

Edward Richard thought the bridge would make Rhydfendigaid forever wealthy and prosperous

Pont Rhydfendigaid 2011

Turn to Page 2 to find out what he had to say about the bridge some twelve months later, after it was completed.

The first reference to this song is in a letter by Lewis Morris to Edward Richard on the 11th Sept. 1760 ; he wrote [9] :

It seems that Lewis Morris was aware of a song about ‘Pont–fendigaid’, but was waiting for a copy from Edward Richard. Four days later, on the 15th of the month, Lewis Morris wrote again to Edward Richard saying [9] :

Edward Jevoise, The Ancient Bridges of England and Wales, Architectural Press, 1936.

Gwyndaf Breese, The Bridges of Wales, Llanrwst, 2001.

J.G. Wood, Principal Rivers in Wales, London, 1813.

See www.acadat.com/HLC/uplandceredigion/pontrhydfendigaid.htm

Rev. D.C. Rees, Tregaron: Historical and Antiquarian, Llandysul, 1936.

Yr Eos: sef gwaith awenyddawl Mr. Edward Richards, I. Bugeigerdd; II. Bugeugerdd; III. Can y Bont; IV. Ateb i Gan y Bont; V. Emyn neu Hymn; VI. Marwnad Iorwerth Rhisiat, [sic], Carmarthen, 1813.

Caneuon y Bont are the first Welsh pastorals in the classical style.

Saunders Lewis, A School of Welsh Augustans, Wrexham, 1924.

Edward Richard, Lewis Morris and Evan Evans were part of a mid-18th century group of Welsh scholars and poets who wrote to each other and passed their poems around for critical analysis and discussion (see Note 6).

Letter from Lewis Morris to Edward Richard, “Cymmrodor” II, page 67.

Letter from Lewis Morris to Edward Richard, “Cymmrodor” II, page 78.

[1]

[2]

[3]

[4]

[5]

[6]


[7]

[8]

[9]



[10]

You have forgot Caniad y Bontfendigaid.

Pryd adeiladwyd y bont ym Mhontrhydfendigaid?

The first song : Cân y Bont (The Song of the Bridge)

How old is the Bridge of the Blessed Ford?

Page 1

Notes

Yr ail dudalen Page 2 Cynnwys Contents Adref Home

Pont Rhydfendigaid

The Bridge of the Blessed Ford

Edward Richard


www.hanesybont.co.uk

(Artist Impression)