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Posts Tagged ‘Welsh language’

When they speak it is rivers.
It is pines roaring in the wind.
It is sparrows at daybreak,
Swallows in blue open skies.
It is the rain in old gutters.
Vague as mist-hugged valleys.
Harsh as ravens and the keening
Of spread-winged kites.

And yet it fades and falters
Year by year pushed to a further edge,
The language of grass and trees,
An anachronism.
As if it had not tumbled down
From the highest empty uplands.
As if it had not been passed along
The careful tales and whispered spells.
As if it were not that simple coagulated dust
Brushed from God’s own hands.

Jealous of its rainbowed fluctuations,
A by-passed parish, a redundant economy.
It is a sad craft that kills the past.
It is a miserly mind that accepts
No drop of mystery to remain.

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BLACK BOOK

it seems time now
to turn back to those
terse ancient words of winter

(now the leaves flounder across lawns,
the grey lidless sky at the window,
and the hills melted in rain)

to tease out the meat
and gristle of them,
to open the heart,
see the red blood pump through
and where and how
that mysterious circulation,
vowel and consonant,
revolving as keys.

(and the cloud upon Bryn
like a dove on the brow of God.
and the trees in their lordly might
whispering from leaf to root to leaf)

each tooth and tongue
taking edge.
each passage,
a view coagulate.

(and the dusty crows thrown eastwards
on the wind of storm and shortening days)

a small breeze it is
that burns the flesh cold.
a bleak hill
a bleak hill.
harsh is the path,
and we, shelterless.

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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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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 5 Improvisations.

Ottid eiry, guin y cnes;
Nid a kedwir oè neges;
Oer llinneu, eu llyu heb tes.

“Falls the snow, a white covering;
Warriors shun their tasks.
Cold are the lakes, their colour without warmth.”

Each line ends with a long hissing sibilance, the fall of snow, the melt as cold hits warm. The slightly longer last line elaborates the terse imagery and is a lack, draining motion and warmth from the reader’s mind.
The description of ‘warriors’ could be ironic. How strong and brave are they really, who refuse to go out in the snow? Or, in another view, the snow can vanquish even the bold warrior with its implacable purpose.

So falls and falls the snow.
White covers all, all senses white.
No colour for the sight,
No sound nor note to the ear,
All feeling numbed, no warmth here for heart.

The stalwart shrink, the warriors shirk,
The brave turn away, tasks undone.
Huddled small to the fire, faces inward.

For the lakes stretch vast and cold.
Their colour is death and grey pallor,
A wan weight the white drift sinks to.
Extirpated, extinguished, cold on cold.

Drained is the heat of war,
We are rendered aimless,
Lost to thoughtless staring peace.
We fall to not doing,
A sin for man whose fuse
Runs short and hot.

Severed, spun back, reeled in.
Conquered by an easy drift
And silent fall –
A world unbudged,
Resolute in is.
A cold refusal.
A cold covering.

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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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Llym Awel, second stanza. Improvisations.

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Ton tra thon, toid tu tir;
Goruchel guaetev rac bron banev bre;
Breit allan or seuir
.

The alliteration of the first line rolls and rumbles like the waves that are described therein, then stutters and becomes harsh as the roaring sound is described, followed by a diminishing gentleness of the vanquished sloping land. The last line has a shocked gulping sadness, or an amazed sorrow. It frames and positions the narrator in an emotional as well as a natural landscape.

“Wave on wave, covering the side of the land;
Very loud the roar against the high hill;
A wonder anything remains.”

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Wave tops wave.
A coupling clamber
A mating roar,
cast seed
spray spume.
Before one, before all,
up sloping land.
Seige unopposed,
howled hunger thrown,
A wild encroachment,
a burst breach
Long and longer reach,
a tumble.
The high hill groans.
What can stand,
what can stay?
From this slide skywards,
From this steep,
utter submergence?

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