Week 287: Yn Yr Hwyr, by Bobi Jones

The Welsh poet Robert Maynard Jones (1929-2017), usually known as Bobi Jones, was a major figure in twentieth century Welsh literature, extraordinarily prolific in many fields, including fiction and criticism as well as poetry. I believe even native Welsh speakers can find his work quite demanding, so perhaps understandably I like best those poems where he reins in a little his penchant for verbal fireworks and an accumulation of striking images, and lets the feeling come across more plainly, as in this memory of his father.

The (freeish) translation that follows is my own.

Yn Yr Hwyr

Yn yr hwyr wrth y tân mae fy nhad yn llifo’n ôl.
Rhai pethau a wnaethom gyda’n gilydd, a finnau’n aml
Yn angharedig. Rhithia yno ei gwrteis ystyried
A dwyn fy nghalon o fewn cysgod ei raeadr synd.

Pan chwyddodd y gofod mawr â’i fwlch ef
Ni wyddwn yr arhosai ynof er ei fynd mor derfynol
Ac y piciai i’m pen fel petai am ymestyn gartref
Yn yr hwyr wrth y tân a’i ddafnau’n gwlychu fy meddwl.

Y tu ôl i gefn y byd, yn yr hwyr wrth y tân
Crwydra ei gariad i lawr, wele mae’n dychwelyd
Cwymp drwy ’ngwythiennau i droi eu trydan
I oleuo ’nghof â’r dyddiau a fu mor hyfryd;
A ffrydiaf ynddo draw hyd hwyr rhyw ddiwrnod
Ar aelwyd ailgronni pawb, stôr pob anwylyd.

Bobi Jones

In The Evening

In the evening by the fire, my father comes back.
Certain things we did together: me
Often unkind. And again my heart finds shelter
In the shadow of his careful courtesy.

I did not know, when he added his own absence
To the great void, that he would still drop round
These evenings by the fire, stretch out his legs
As if at home, shake raindrops on my mind.

But when the world is not looking, his vagrant love
Returns to me, in the evening by the fire.
Coursing electric through my veins, it lights
The memory of fair days gone before,
As by the evening hearth our spirits join
Where love is stored, and all are gathered in.

Week 286: From ‘Spring Nature Notes’ by Ted Hughes

I see this poem, with that wonderfully evocative last line about the brilliant silence, as relating properly to one of those first fine days in early March, but spring our way has been so late this year that it was not till last Saturday we had weather of the kind to bring this poem to mind. Now we are in the middle of a mini-heatwave and the countryside is going mad with bluebells and blossom, as if the whole dammed-up season has burst its banks and overflowed in one day.

From ‘Spring Nature Notes’

The sun lies mild and still on the yard stones.

The clue is a solitary daffodil – the first.

And the whole air struggling in soft excitements
Like a woman hurrying into her silks.
Birds everywhere zipping and unzipping
Changing their minds, in soft excitements,
Warming their voyage and trying their voices.

The trees still spindle bare.

Beyond them, from the warmed blue hills
An exhilaration swirls upward, like a huge fish.
As under the waterfall, in the bustling pool.

Over the whole land
Spring thunders down in brilliant silence.

Ted Hughes

Week 285: Flying Crooked, by Robert Graves

One of those neat idiosyncratic lyrics, slipping so effortlessly into the memory, that Robert Graves excelled at.

Flying Crooked

The butterfly, a cabbage-white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has – who knows so well as I? –
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.

Robert Graves

Week 284: Dychwelyd, by T.H. Parry-Williams

T.H. Parry-Williams (1887-1975) was one of the major figures in a great flowering of Welsh poetry in the first half of the last century, and this is one of his best-known sonnets, a popular choice for recitation at Eisteddfods.

The translation that follows is my own.


Ni all terfysgoedd daear byth gyffroi
distawrwydd nef; ni sigla lleisiau’r llawr
rymuster y tangnefedd sydd yn toi
diddim diarcholl yr ehangder mawr;
ac ni all holl drybestod dyn a byd
darfu’r tawelwch nac amharu dim
ar dreigl a thro’r pellterau sydd o hyd
yn gwneuthur gosteg â’u chwyrnellu chwim.
Ac am nad ydyw’n byw ar hyd y daith,
o gri ein geni hyd ein holaf gŵyn,
yn ddim ond crych dros dro neu gysgod craith
ar lyfnder esmwyth y mudandod mwyn,
ni wnawn, wrth ffoi am byth o’n ffwdan ffôl,
ond llithro i’r llonyddwch mawr yn ôl.

T.H. Parry-Williams


No earthly riot that we make can mar
The peace of heaven; there is no voice here
With power to match its tranquil might and jar
That endless perfect overarching sphere.
Not all our human tumult here below
Can break the seal of silence, nor surprise
Whatever moves the stars to come and go
Forever spiralling on soundless skies.
For all our life, from cradle to the grave,
From infant’s cry to our last agony,
Is but a shadow-wound, a passing wave
Which leaves no scar on that smooth silent sea,
As from this earthly fuss we find release
To meld once more with everlasting peace.