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Owen, William (1530?-1587) (DNB00)


OWEN, WILLIAM (1530?–1587), Welsh poet, better known by his bardic name of William Lleyn or Llŷn, was born at Llangian in Lleyn, Carnarvonshire, being, according to tradition, a natural son of one of the Griffiths of Cefh Amwich, by whom he was educated for the church. The date of his birth is generally given as 1540, but since Gruflydd Hiraethog, who was his bardic teacher, died in 1550, the date of 1530 is more probable (Cambrian Biography, p. 342, sub William Lleyn and G. ap Rhys, Llenyddiaeth Gymreig, p. 308 n.) Owen is always described as M.A., but where he graduated appears unknown. He was appointed vicar of Oswestry in 1683, and died there in 1587 (Thomas, Diocese of St. Asaph, p. 655).

He was present at the Eisteddfod held by virtue of a royal commission at Caerwys 22 May 1568, when he received the degree of chief bard (Pennant, Tours in Wales, ii. 92-5). It was probably on that occasion that he had a poetical contest with a rival bard, Owain Gwynedd. He is almost the only Welsh poet of the day who was not a Roman catholic, and he is credited with having instructed in the rules of Welsh prosody Edmund Prys [q. v.], the evangelical psalm-writer. Owen shows himself a master of style, but his poems also possess such intrinsic merit that he is generally considered the greatest Welsh poet in the period between Dafydd ab Grwilym and Goronwy Owen. Nine pieces by him, including his elegy on his teacher, Gruffydd Hiraetnog, are printed in 'Gorchestion Beirdd Cymru,' ed. 1864, pp. 250-77, and three others were published in 'Y Brython,' iii. 117, 263, 394; but a large number still remain unpublished. Nearly one hundred poems by him — some of them probably duplicates are found in thirty-three different volumes (between 14866 and 15059) in the Additional MSS., in the British Museum, while No. 15065 contains a Welsh vocabulary by him, transcribed by Lewis Morris. Among the Hengwrt MSS., now at Penairth, No. 110 is in the poet's own handwriting, while Nos. 168, 232, 247, and 253a contain some of his poems (see 'Catalogue of Hengwrt MSS.' in Arch. Cambr. 3rd ser. xv. 209, 352, 4th ser. i. 73, 323). His own elegy was written by Rhys Cain. Another poet of the name of Huw Lleyn is supposed by some to have been his brother.

[Hanes Llenyddiaeth Gymreig, by G. ap Rhys, pp. 302-9; Williams's Eminent Welshmen (p. 279), and Foulkes's Enwogion Cymru, sub Lleyn; Catalogue of Manuscripts at the British Museum.]

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