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John Price ‘Beulah’

JOHN PRICE ‘BEULAH’

Between heaven and earth

John Price, there, was a blackbird before rain,

a song thrush in the evening.

He kept to small lanes

and taught others his delight

at the end of a hard day.

Carpenter, son of a carpenter,

between the rolling roads and rising views,

between Llangammarch and Beulah,

he measured with a clear eye

the mortice and tenon of his rhymes,

turning the tune, tapping home the notes.

His voice heard mellifluous

by the hills and rivers,

by the gathered singing poor,

by maid and shepherd,

by schoolchildren and labourers.

To sing in chains

is to watch the chains

dissolve.

John Price ‘Beulah’ was born in Llangammarch. He learned his music from a couple of skilled local music teachers, particularly the ‘sol fa’ systems of notating music. Apart from a couple of years in America, where quite a lot of his music was published, he spent his life as an estate carpenter, teaching music and local choirs around the Irfon valley in his spare time. He was a prolific and influential hymn writer in the early 20th century, and also wrote many popular songs. His work did much to promote local choirs, so central to the characher of Welsh rural life.

Larches

Larches

The way colours remain long into the grey autumn.

The way the hanging cones resemble syllables

Lingering on the tongue’s tip,

Or kanji haiku brushed carefully careless.

The way these larches let go and dance

On pale cooling hills.

The way images blur and smudge but remain themselves:

Brushstrokes of careless, magnified light.

An autumn aesthetic: nostalgic patterns floating.

Delicacy and decay: look close and the world

Disappears into light.

Green Rock

GREEN ROCK

Green rock, black root

time is the river

that shapes this world.

Green rock, black root

sentience emerges

from realising relationship.

Green rock, black root

life is born from the seed

of sullen gods who found love.

Green rock, black root

this world, so full of sorrow,

this world, so full of bliss.

The familiar will fall away,

as leaves before the autumn wind,

as leaves before winter.

Dhrupad 22 (empty)

DHRUPAD 22 (empty)

Empty,

emptied the skies,

unwoven by soaring diving swallows suddenly not there

suddenly silent as the still silvered edged trees,

dusted time-dusted, picked out in the

more slanted light suddenly now.

The clouds pouring in now pouring in the winds.

Still warm the sun still warm

though the nights grow cool now.

The days are set,

the days are settled,

they nestle down on quietened fields

in the quiet ripening

fields where the slow pheasants pause

and pick and move on.

There will be the

wheeling words of red kites soon and buzzards soon

their own spells their own

summoning autumn songs

high in the blue and dazzling dazzling heights of

tumbled skies

and the grain nodding heavy

and the hazels winking

and the ash

trees longing to let go,

to let go.

SUMMER RIVER

Golden edged

Summer river

Rocks cooling their toes.

Golden river

Summer gnats

All diminuendo

Cooling their old bones

Grey worn rocks in summer heat

Squatting in midstream

Soft summer rivers

Water folding up sunlight

Shoals of darting fish

High summer

We see them gather

To cool their feet:

These venerable rocks

Dreaming in the slow waters

Time flows silent

By the river side

Lamination

LAMINATION

These words have gathered themselves together

Like swallows in a cooling sky.

Dark news from the cities

Where fools hold sway.

The stone at Llanlleonfel hardly speaks,

Stuttered in silence, its lines unread.

The stone of Llanynis taken to safety,

A kind replica gathers moss in an empty field.

The stones of Llanddewi Cwm, the woven stones,

Broken and holy, no one sees any more.

Words there are dying, eagle cries scratched and fading.

The stones of Gelynos subside into their own graves,

Locked in roots, bound by promises, muttering names.

The stone at Llanwrtyd, the old view subverted,

The road to world’s roof pitted, empty.

Is it still there in the darkness?

A mystery looking out, an old palm resting in an old lap,

As if after despair.

The stones of Llanafanfawr, huddled safe from storm,

Root words that mean their opposites, that savour contradiction.

The stone of Llangamarch, bestowing its blessing on jackdaws,

By the river’s edge in the water’s roar.

A storm of awen stripping away discourse.

A scroll rolled and unrolled a galaxy away.

The stone of Cilmeri, where hope died,

Where hope is offered flowers continually fading.

A place to lose heads, to find a well of eventual peace.

All these stones cold, hard, mute.

They can not tell of our futures here,

Though they remember the past,

And that, they all know, is the same thing.

The stone of Llanlleonfel is an Early Dark Age memorial to two fallen Welsh warriors inside the small church at Lllanlleonfel. The script is hardly readable now, the exploits forgotten.

The stone at Llanynis is a deftly carved pillar cross, removed to a local museum, but replaced with a fair reproduction, leaning isolated in a cleared graveyard.

The stones of Llanddewi Cwm, are no longer in situ. They consisted of deeply carved interlace patterns, once part of a free-standing cross stone.

Gelynos is an early Non-Comformist chapel site on a hillside road. Its walls long gone, its gravestones tipped and sinking into the earth.

Llanwrtyd stone is a memorial stone with abstracted Celtic-style head, lost within the depths of an old church nave.

The stones of Llanafanfawr are enigmatic geometrical carvings now placed into the porch wall.

The Llangamarch carving is above the church porch. It has a representation of a figure holding a spiral below a sun wheel cross.

The stone at Cilmeri was placed last century in memory of the death of the last great Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, ambushed and slain here.

All these stones are in, or look over, the Irfon Valley in mid-Wales, where I live. The title ‘Lamination’, which is name given to the weathering deterioration of these old carvings, is also a play on ‘lamentation’, particularly the Biblical Lamentations of Jeremiah, so popular in the Reformation for its relentless descriptions of ungodliness and destruction of nations.

Shards

Cuckoo sings to cuckoo.

The morning is a still lake

Reflecting silver light.

I give the mountain my breath.

The mountain gives me back silence.

We rest motionless.

The river has a poet’s mouth,

Meandering and easy,

Called by sunlit and dangerous horizons.

Rain dissolves the view

Sitting still

Surrounded with birdsong

Resting in silence

We become the view.

Who holds this bowl?

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