When I was a pupil at Fisghguard County Secondary School, our Welsh teacher Geraint Davies (known to all the pupils as “Dai Welsh“) used to give us a poem on Monday to learn by Friday, and in the Friday lesson we had to write out the poem as correctly as possible. Any forgotten or misspelled words, or any incorrect punctuation, would lead to our losing marks.
One of the first poems we learnt was this poem, “Y Llwynog” (“The Fox”), by R Williams Parry. [note, a South-Walian like myself would use the word “cadno” for fox, “llwynog” is the North-Walian word.] I still remember every word of every line, but I think that is mainly because it is one of my favourite poems by this very talented Welsh poet. I have read every poem he published, as I studied his volume “Yr Haf a cherddi eraill” (“The Summer and other poems”) for A-level Welsh. I blogged here about his cousin and fellow poet T.H. Parry-Williams.
He only published one other volume of poetry, “Cerddi’r Gaeaf” (“Poems of the Winter”), which I also read so I could compare the two volumes and the different themes in the two volumes in any analysis I was asked to do in the exams.
My son has his GCSE Welsh literature exam tomorrow (Wednesday the 16th of May 2012), and it is one of the poems he is studying. Surprisingly, despite having done two O-levels (GCSEs) in Welsh and also A-level Welsh, there are very few poems he is studying which I have also studied, this is one of the few.
Ganllath o gopa’r mynydd, pan oedd clych
Eglwysi’r llethrau’n gwahodd tua’r llan,
Ac annrheuliedig haul Gorffennaf gwych
Yn gwahodd tua’r mynydd, – yn y fan,
Ar ddiarwybod droed a distaw duth,
Llwybreiddiodd ei ryfeddod prin o’n blaen
Ninnau heb ysgog ac heb ynom chwyth
Barlyswyd ennyd; megis trindod faen
Y safem, pan ar ganol diofal gam
Syfrdan y safodd yntau, ac uwchlaw
Ei untroed oediog dwy sefydlog fflam
Ei lygaid arnom. Yna heb frys na braw
Llithrodd ei flewyn cringoch dros y grib;
Digwyddodd, darfu, megis seren wîb.
R. Williams Parry (1924)
The main theme of this poem is the conflict between going for a walk up a mountain on a sunny July Sunday morning, and going to church. R. Williams-Parry was a humanist, so for him there was no competition. The wonders of Nature would always win out over worshipping a God he didn’t believe existed.
On this particular walk, the poet and his two friends’ decision is richly rewarded, as they catch sight of a fox. The poet equisitely describes the wonder of this fleeting moment, with descriptions of e.g. The fox’s eyes “like two burning flames”. The whole episode is over in the briefest of instants, “It happened, it ended, like a shooting star”.
Below is my rather poor attempt to translate this poem. Again, as I have done before, I have gone for a literal translation rather than any attempt to retain a rhyme or meter in the poem. I hope you enjoy it.
One hundred yards from the top of the mountain, when the peal
Of the churches on the slopes were inviting us towards them,
And the unspent sun of glorious July
Inviting us towards the mountain – right there,
On an unknowing foot and quiet trot
His rare beauty wandered in front of us
We, without movement and without a breath
Were paralysed a moment, like a trinity of stones
We stood, when in the middle of an uncaring step
He too stood frozen in space, above
His one tentative foot the two steady flames
Of his eyes upon us. Then, without hurrying or panic
His red fur slid over the ridge;
It happened, it ended, like a shooting star.