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Posts Tagged ‘Ancient Welsh poetry’

By Breath

Awen, awel, gwen, gwyn.
By sound they collect, though not by derivation:
A poet’s excuse.
Biological etymology, a bloom of lichen,
Mutually supporting, intergrown,
What is not the same becoming
What is not different.
Inspiration, breeze, white, so white.
The mist effloresces, it becomes name.

The hunched woman, the crooked woman,
Behind it all, birth and death mother.
Ceridwen, overflowing awen, bright river racing.
Energy of remarkable stimulation, disperser of the seeds of wisdom
(The soot black severed-head seeds of alder,
The fine feather floating of willow and poplar, careless Gwion Bach).

Fresh water mixed with jet.
We shall reflect upon it, upon its depths,
Upon the mirrored world it shows,
The membrane, the drum skin,
The roof of the sky.

By breath from Ceridwen,
Hunched over, tight focus, mind sharp,
The cauldron within Annwfn.
The place where things are true and of themselves.
In the world
It is not the world it is, the most of the world.
The inner world, the deep, the profound.

Perception of patterns
(all that perception is, after all)
Ogrfen in awen, a phase of awen, a part,
Patterns of the world in the breath.
Witnessing the deepening of things as they are.
The Ideal peeking through the ordinary.
In a chant, in a repeating, in a breath in and out
And the sound between. Again and again.

I sing awen.
I bring it forth from the depth.
Awen in annwfn weighs and judges the worth.
Awen brings forth annwfn

Deep awen – ddofn awen
Deep awen of deep memory,

The deep, deep within the breath.
And what will it turn out to be, after all,
Except this: annwfn is the memory
Of all things, unreleased, unchanged, unforgotten,
Piled up, sunk down, absorbed, soaked through.
A saturation of patterns, a pathway etched,
A river chiselled, a dance dreamed in the heart
Of all matter, what matters, what holds together.
Between the two cataracts of the wind, between the
Song of the lungs, the heart fortress and its salt tides.

Not the words, not the tale.
The weaving of sounds, the way to go beyond
And beneath the meaning,
Lost in the music, the meanings trail behind.

Eiliad – the composition of poetry,
one second, one woven moment,
A weaving in time.
Rhythm defining time
Moving through time
Harmony created to memorise, remember.
The thrush singing the world away
Revealing the underlying presence of sacredness.

This high throne, this chair, this rock: a place of song.
Worlds reflected in the sound and rhythm,
Mirroring, transformed, switched.
A seething mist, a sunlit hillside,
Sound of distant traffic.
When time has run,
it gathers itself up
And remembers
And by this
Becomes free
From itself.
Eternal,
Golden.

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So fragile
Is beauty.
That
Is what
Every song
Says.
Fragile as a single breath
On a winter morning:
A mist flowering out
On settled air.
The slightest murmur,
Whisper without word,
A readjustment of time
And space,
A coordination atomic.
A new chord
Tasting the intervals between.

A settlement of sound:
Snow on the ridge edges.
Colour flees through the sky at dawn.
So, then, it grows colder.

There is sound.
There is silence.
There is
The dance of light
Between them.
Some time,
In the small hours,
The fire will die down
And we will dream.

Beauty is our food.
We hunt it out
For sweet sustenance.
Gathered, it is
The honey
Of our memories.
Clear and golden,
A long summer evening,
Just before the stars appear.

The moths,
The small things
That delight in edge
And shadow,
Where softness
Calmly billows,
Inviolable.

The way
That words fail
Upon sudden,
Harsh beauty.

Hardly moving
This slow, congealing
Blood of dawn.
Congregated, coagulated,
The most slight timbral vibrating,
This metallic air will disengage,
Withdraw to its smirked edge.

Unsupported,
Things fall motionless
To frozen earth,
A whitened mist,
A cloud of ice,
A stutter.

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LLYM AWEL verse 12 Improvisations
(Part One)

Gvenin igogaur, guan gaur adar;
Dit diulith….
Kassulwin kewin brin, coch gwaur.

“Bees shelter in winter quarters, the weak noise of birds;
A bitter day….
The ridge hill cloaked in white, a red dawn.”

The hives silent.
Bees shut up in winter.
So too, the thin voice
Of birds.
A bitter day of it,
So, too, words fail.
Gagged, gaunt,
All declines to murmur.
The hill ridge
Is cloaked in white.
A red dawn.

The hunters for gold
In their hollow halls
Gather murmured dreaming.
Summer is far away.
The dawn flowers red,
But still the birds are silent.

The beauty of it:
A silent red dawn.
River murmurs under ice.

Their laboured breath:
A cold wind sighing
Through bare branches.
The gold of victory
Keeps not cold
From the heart.
They will dream of
Summer and a summer sky,
And the dance of victory
And the boasts of heroes.

This verse has the second half of the second line missing. Rather ironic, as one of its main themes is silence, or comparative silence. The inactivity of the hive I have taken to be a metaphor or parallelism for the host of warriors, inactive, in their lord’s hall. Hence, the imagery of hunting for gold, the warrior’s prize, and bees in summer hunting for pollen.

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LLYM AWEL Verse 9

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Ottid eiry o dv riv;
Karcharaur goruit, cul biv;
Nid annuyd hawdit hetiv.

“Snow fall on the side of the slope;
The horse is prisoner, the cattle thin;
It is nothing like a summer day today.”

1
Snow leans on the low slopes
Rain slants here in the valley
Cold slides from the hillsides,
Shades the day, the bitter night.
For weeks now no grass grows,
The horses stamp and mutter.

2
The world is hobbled
Stalled by snow
Nothing can be done
But wait
Counting ribs
Thin in hunger chains.
Cold airs slide white slopes
The valley’s continual rain slant.
In the dark
A horse lifts up a foot,
Puts down a foot.
Time is that slow,
Rolling down to emptiness.

3
We ache
With soft remembrance:
The scents of summer.
Mudsplashed and wan
Our churned meadow,
The heavy roof.
Huddled,
We long
For long sleep
And a dream or two
Of love and feast
And brightness.

4
The skies billow like oceans,
The stars, a long blizzard.
We are roofed in darkness
And a sunless weight.
The manacles of iron cold,
The chains of frost.
Bitter is the taste of winter days,
An ivy crown, a holly bed.
Poor animals, all of us,
Declining.

5
We can not dream of summer –
Those few, spiced, long days.
Souls float free from skin,
All the sky to move within.

We can not do but what we must
To flick off the gnaw of cold
And bite of hunger.

We cling to the swirling skirts of winter,
Dare not let go.
To fall too far,
Too thin to rise,
Too far to hope.
We must stay
Within our means
And shrink our dignity
Day by day.

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Llym awel 3, improvisations.

The third stanza contrasts the atmospheric tumult of winter with the motionless, perhaps frozen, lake and the lifeless stillness of the remains of vegetation around its shore and in the woods. The complex sounds and rhythms of the first line give way to the stark alliteration and simple rhymes of the second and third lines.
The overwhelming impression is of a stripped hollowness, everything destroyed by the storm. The key is “cold bed” conjuring a flat, unwelcoming expanse of coldness. All the emotion of the narrator is summed up in those two words.

Oer guely, lluch rac brythuch gaeaw;
Crin calew, caun truch;
Kedic awel, coed im bluch.

“Cold bed, the lake in winter’s tumult;
Withered stalk, broken reed;
Violent wind, the trees stripped bare.”

For now
It is, surely, a cold cauldron-
This seething winter sky
Within the mute
And broken vessels
Of the earth;
Hollow, rounded,
Iron still.
Held
The grey lake,
The naked wood
Stripped bare
( the suitors of the sky
Voracious for space),
Ripped and opened
To uncaring wild heavens.

Cold bed this lake, death-still,
Through winter’s rage;
Withered is the stalk,
Broken the reed;
Violent the wind
That has stripped bare
The trees.

Broken withered still the soil,
Still cold the unmoving expanse of lake,
Cold as death.
That which bends is broken,
That which yeilds is bare.
Nothing moves
But winter’s endless roar.

Winter’s roar.
All, broken.
Slapped down, the lake,
Cold, folded, comfortless.
Hollow the woods,
Ripped of leaves.
What was, is remains.
Severed, the warmth
Of summer

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