Tag Archives: Welsh poetry

November 9, 2018

November 9, 2018

Today marks 65 years since the death of Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. The mystery of the cause of his death remains unsolved but the consensus is that alcohol played the major part.

Dylan Thomas had celebrated his 39thbirthday 13 days before, on October 27th, 1953.

Although exceedingly short, his professional career brought him the fame (but little fortune) that only a few poets achieve after their deaths and even more rarely during their lifetimes.

Some of his success as a poet can be attributed to his flamboyant personality and some to his appeal to literary bright lights — especially women. But, the bulk of his popularity is a result of the stunning command of his medium — the English language flavored by the lyricism of his Welsh background and his unmistakable knowledge of human experience.

Poet, playwright and storyteller, Dylan found the way to touch our hearts.

NOVA Center for the Performing Arts will host a reading of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” on December 9th.

 

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Filed under Cymreig/Welsh, Hanes Cymru/Welsh History, Y Cymry/Welsh People

On These Days in September

Croeso Medi, fis fy serch,
Pan fo’r mwyar ar y llwyni,
Pan fo’r cnau’n melynu’r cyll,
Pan fo’n hwyr gan ddyddiau nosi.
— Eifion Wyn

Welcome Medi, month of my love,
When the blackberries are on the hedges,
When the nuts yellow the hazel,
When the evening by days darkens.
— Eifion Wyn

There are so many days of significance in Medi (September) through the ages, I thought it best to combine some of them because I will want to write more later on in the month about one of the most historic characters in Welsh history.

Medi is the word for reaping the harvest. From mid August to late September, the fragrance of the grains being harvested fills the air. In the rural areas of Cymru, the saying is lladd y gwair – literally to ‘kill the grass’. Grain harvesting is an anxious time, especially dependent on the weather. Cymru is lush and green. Its climate is affected by the Gulf Stream and is generally mild and moist. At the end of summer, too much rain will postpone the harvest beyond the optimum time.

Most of the farms in the west, mid and north are small family-owned operations – none of the megalithic corporate farms of the American midwest. Most of the farms have been in the same family for decades, some times for centuries, once the feudal system of the medieval estates began to break apart.

The custom  of dividing property equally between heirs meant that estates became farms and then smallholdings unless the heirs agreed to keep the estate as one. Many farms were sold when the heirs were too old to work them. Many of these heirs remained unmarried to avoid breaking up the farm between their siblings and their children. Much of the farmland around towns has been sold to developers for housing, making retired farmers the unlanded wealthy.

Medi is also the month of renewed activity after the long summer of waiting for the grass to reach it’s maturity.

2 Medi 1861: on this day the price for Y Faner (a weekly news magazine) was lowered to two pence.

3 Medi 1927: Coleg Harlech was opened – the first college for older students in Cymru.

5 Medi 1912: By winning the National Eisteddfod Chair in Wrexham on this day, after winning the Bardic Crown on the 4th, T.H. Parry-Williams was the first poet to win both – and that at the age of just 25.

6 Medi 1917: was the day of the ‘Cadair Ddu’ (the Black Chair) at the National Eisteddfod in Penbedw when the Bardic Chair was draped in black in honor of the winner, Hedd Wyn, who was killed in battle of Pilkem Ridge, France on the 31st of July, 1917.

Dan y llaid mae llygaid llon
A marw yw prydydd Meirion.

Under the mud are eyes at peace
And dead is Meirion’s poet.

8 Medi 1936: the poets Saunder Lewis, D.J. Williams and Lewis Valentine set fire to the Bombing School at Penyberth, on the Llŷn Peninsula in north Cymru to protest the use of land in Cymru to support the military of England.  (We named our first home in Caerfyrddin ‘Penyberth’ in honor of these men.)

9 Medi 1294: Madog ap Llywelyn rebelled against the oppression of Edward I in Cymru. This rebellion followed years of war between this tyrannical king and the Cymry (Welsh people). Edward crowned his son as the Prince of Wales, against the wishes of the Cymry. The last true Tywysog Cymru (Prince of Wales) was Llywelyn II, murdered at Cilmeri, Powys in 1282.

Pob dymuniad da am dywydd braf a medi llwyddiannus.

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Hanes y Cymry: First Millennium Detail

Saint Patrick Windowc387-460AD – Saint Patrick (Qatrikias) is born in Castell Nedd, Cymru, captured and enslaved by Irish invaders. He escaped after six years and returned to his family in Cymru, became a priest and returned to Ireland as a bishop. His name in early Irish shows the difference between the Q Celtic (Gaelic) and the P Celtic (Brythonic).

c500-589AD – Saint David is born in Pembrokeshire, becomes a priest, begins his mission of the conversion of theDewi Sant at Jesus Chapel, Oxford chieftains to Christianity, made bishop, and a saint.

632-633AD – Cadwallon vanquished the king of Northumbria and was killed the following year.

c642-655AD – Cynddylan, son of Cyndrwyn, and his brothers stand against the Saxons at Lichfield. A few years later, he and all of his followed are murdered on ‘The Night of the Long Knifes’ in a treacherous attack. Marwnad Cynddylan and Canu Heledd are poems that have been set to mournful tunes.

754-798AD – Caradog ap Meirion reigns as king in Gwynedd. During his reign the battle at Morfa Rhuddlan is purported to have taken place in 796.  According to tradition, Caradog fought Offa at Morfa Rhuddlan and the battle is commemorated in a beautiful poem by Ieuan Glan Geirionydd (Evan Evans). Two years after this bloody event, Caradog was slain by the Saxons. This link will take you to a site to hear the 9th Century folk tune to which the poem is most often sung http://carolink.tripod.com/marsh.html. Or this to hear it played on the pib Cymreig: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikGp9Cxb6AM or this to see a video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwU9gzjuCOA or my personal favorite on the harmonium at the right tempo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9wRXJhhKy4&feature=related. Most folk tunes at this period were dance tunes, not dirges. The poem is one of the most beautiful I’ve read or sung. (I sang this as a solo on St. David’s Day accompanied by harp – one of the bravest things I’ve ever done!)

844-878AD – Rhodri Mawr (the Great) is king of Gwynedd, Powys and Seisyllwg (Sir Gaerfyrddin). His allies included Charles, king of the Franks. He died in battle against the Saxon king of Mercia. (Two years before this battle, 876AD, is the year in which I set the first of my Pendyffryn series with the novel, Invasion.)

Hywel Rex

Hywel Dda codified the marriage laws in Cymru.

880-950AD – Hywel Dda, son of Cadell and grandson of Rhodri Mawr, brings south, west and north together under his reign. He is acclaimed as one of the five great lawmakers of antiquity. The Laws of Hywel Dda were accepted as the standard of law in the judiciary in Cymru until the 16th Century. (Traitor’s Daughter is set in this period.) For more about the Marriage Laws of Hywel Dda, see my earlier article: Marriage Laws in Celtic Britain

1039-1063AD – Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, arguably the most successful of the pre-Norman kings of Cymru who, by the end of his reign, had united the whole of the country from Gwynedd to Gwent. He was the spirit of rebellion that kept the Cymry from succumbing, like their Saxon neighbors in one blow, to the power of the Normans.

 

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