Taliesin (fl. 6th century; (/ˌtæliˈɛsɨn/; ) was an early British poet of the post-Roman period whose work has possibly survived in a Middle Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin. Taliesin was a renowned bard who is believed to have sung at the courts of at least three Celtic British kings.
A maximum of eleven of the preserved poems have been dated to as early as the 6th century, and were ascribed to the historical Taliesin. The bulk of this work praises King Urien of Rheged and his son Owain mab Urien, although several of the poems indicate that he also served as the court bard to King Brochfael Ysgithrog of Powys and his successor Cynan Garwyn, either before or during his time at Urien's court. Some of the events to which the poems refer, such as the Battle of Arfderydd (c. 583), are referred to in other sources.
His name, spelled as Taliessin in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King and in some subsequent works, means "shining brow" in Middle Welsh. In legend and medieval Welsh poetry, he is often referred to as Taliesin Ben Beirdd ("Taliesin, Chief of Bards" or chief of poets). He is mentioned as one of the five British poets of renown, along with Talhaearn Tad Awen ("Talhaearn Father of the Muse"), Aneirin, Blwchfardd, and Cian Gwenith Gwawd ("Cian Wheat of Song"), in the Historia Brittonum, and is also mentioned in the collection of poems known as Y Gododdin. Taliesin was highly regarded in the mid-twelfth century as the supposed author of a great number of romantic legends.
According to legend Taliesin was adopted as a child by Elffin, the son of Gwyddno Garanhir, and prophesied the death of Maelgwn Gwynedd from the Yellow Plague. In later stories he became a mythic hero, companion of Bran the Blessed and King Arthur. His legendary biography is found in several late renderings (see below), the earliest surviving narrative being found in a manuscript chronicle of world history written by Elis Gruffydd in the 16th century.