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.
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.