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Posts Tagged ‘gnomic verse’

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AUTUMN SQUALL

There are few words here.
Bleak hill, cool breeze.
Iron hard is the ground
Of the present –
It will not give way.
Seeing is the stark choice
Of poets,
Dreaming of what was and is
And feeling the bones push
Through the thin skin
Of the day,
Sky-bright and bitter-edged.
We will grab what we can
And always wish for more.
Certain hunger there.
Sharp breeze, bleak hill.


A short reprise on ‘llym awel”. As days grow shorter it may be that I will continue my explorations of this oldest of British poetry, so akin to the nuances of T’ang poetry and the haiku of Japan. I am about half way through. After a year’s break it will be interesting to see how the verses get assimilated.

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MABINOGION HAIKU

This golden river.
Words bob down the long ages-
Mysterious truths

Moon well, sun cauldron.
Who would not become transfixed?
Their utter beauty.

There is not one thing
That is not another thing.
Pay attention, Pwyll!

Green mound lost in fog.
What dream does the world dream here?
breath weaves life and death.

How could she be true?
Oak and broom and meadowsweet,
Made of season’s change.

Do not take possession
Of what is not yours.
(And nothing is yours).



Sort of a hybrid between haiku form and gnomic verse. Apologies for all those who do not know the allusions, but those who know the Four Branches might take some little pleasure in these fragmentary nods…

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LLYM AWEL verse 11(part2)

So we pass it round and drink
It round, drink the short day,
Block out the storm, the raging heart,
The dying, trembling roads.

All narrowed, tunnelled in,
The golden liquid cools the breath.
Tunnelled in, proud thunder,
A slap of light, a daybreak.

The circle of the fire:
A harbour, a warm twilight.
We turn inward, away from the wall.
The wild fields of weather
The clatter of cold, the fall of night.

It runs in circles
It runs between dark and light
It runs, unacknowledged, between the company.
Cold are the dark paths to night.
Cold are the long, twisting ways.
No peace in the restless bending treetops.
No rest in the sparkling sky worlds.
Time runs screaming, piercing the light.
All dawns, a false dawn.
A cup never refilled,
Bright the days
That drip and scatter.
The fires gutter and chill.
Senseless and forgetful we sleep,
The few hours of dulled grey,
The storm that is coming.

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LLYM AWEL verse 10

Ottid eiry, guin goror mynit;
Llum guit llog ar mor;
Meccid llvwyr llauer kyghor.

Snow falls, mountains are fringed in white;
These bleak trees: masts on the sea;
A coward has endless excuses.

1
Knowing what we know
What should be done?
We ask ( fearing the answer).

The cold clear cut,
The slow scribbled signature
Of snow.

Timber shattered,
The mast trees weep.
Stripped fingers
They have nothing to say.
The cry, long dry cry of winter.
Glass sea, glass sky,
Broken.

2
What is slight
Sustains us.
Rills and ridge
Croak under snow.

A laughter cough of ice.
Harsh is the wind on the edge of the valley.
No kind words for the hesitant.

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6

Ottid eiry, guin aren;
Segur yscuid ar iscuit hen;
Ryauar guint, reuhid dien.

This verse has a beautiful rhythm and some clearly visible rhymes. The last word on each line rhymes ( aren, hen, dien), bringing a clear finality to the clipped imagery. The second line emphasises internal ‘s’ sounds and a sonic and semantic similarity between ‘yscuid’ (shield) and ‘iscuit’ ( shoulder). The third line rolls with repeated ‘r’s. ( ryauar, reuhid).

A fairly literal translation is:

‘Falling snow, white hoar-frost;
An idle shield on an old man’s shoulder;
Very great wind, grass freezes.’

The second line may have been a well-known epithet regarding uselessness, appropriateness, wasted effort or similar. Whatever it is alluding to, there is a clear contrast and comparison between the external conditions of winter and the frailty or limitations of humans.

A shield on
An old man’s
Shoulder is a
Useless weight.
This battle lost:
Blood freezes,
Hair whitens.
A rattling breath,
Needle cold in
The lungs.
Cold wind scythes
The land, all falls
Cold and motionless.

A shroud of memory shields the real.
A heavy weight is its covering.
A welcome numbness dulls each sharp edge.
White is the weight of snow,
White the beard of frost.
White the hair, white the vision.
White the mountain shield above the mist.

Heavy and lame the old man’s hand.
Dead weight the shouldered shield.
Neither weapon nor defence,
No comfort, but an accretion of habit,
Laden down, a bitter burden.
A cloak, a blanket would better serve.

The only blanket is snow.
The only battle, against cold.
The one breath, a wild wind
Turning grass to steel.
A bitter blade of winter
On bitter blades of grass.

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LLYM AWEL. Verse 4. Improvisations.

Oer gwely pisscaud ugkisscaud iaen;
Cul hit, caun barywhaud;
Birr diuedit, guit gvyrhaud.

“Fishes’ cold bed, ice sheet a shelter;
Thin stag, bearded grass;
Short day’s end, trees bent.”

1
Cold world.
Sheet ice
A shelter for fish.

2
Ice sheets:
A shelter for fish.
This cold world.

3
Cold world, below ice
The slow fishes shelter.
Gaunt and haggard
Is the stag stumbling thin
Amongst tough tufts,
The grass tussocks stubble.
Day ends sharply.
Short the light
Slewed to darkness.
Not heat nor light enough,
The trees tired
And weep bent.

4
No delight the meagre light
Cropped sunlight,
A short curtail
Sudden day’s ending.

5
Sheet of ice:
At least a cold shelter,
A cold bed for fish,
Safe and slow
Beneath a sleep drift,
A flick, a dark, viscous world.
Above, we turn grey,
Bent thin and fade.
No light,
Heavy the bowed trees
Bent boughs
Thin branches bob
And the stag,still,
Gaunt in grey grasses.

6
No heart to linger on
Bent trees at day’s end.
Stuttered the stag, shrugged thin,
Here and there
Between stubbled grey grasses.
No heart, the trees bent over.

7
No heart left,
The dark trees bend heavy, bowed down.
The matted grasses,
Neither food nor bed,
The thin stag wanders through a starved,
Sudden end to the day.

8
Starved, the thin day fails fast.
No heart, the trees bow heavy.
Grey, stubbled grasses,
No food, nor shelter-
The thin stag stands lost
At failing light.
At least the fish beneath the ice
Find shelter, a cold bed
Of sorts.

9
Cold bed.
Day dims.
Under ice, the river flows.
Cold bed, slow fishes shelter.
Cold bed, but not for the thin stag.
Grey the grasses, matted wan.
Day light gutters,
No heart, trees bend down.

10
Thinned streams divided
A guttering light
Sound of water under ice,
A cold bed laid over all.
Ice sheet, a withering away.

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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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