Cilmeri is a small village in mid-Wales, not far from the town of Llanfair ym Muallt (Builth Wells), and it was here on December 11th, 1282 that the last Welsh-born Prince of Wales, Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, popularly known as Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf (Llywelyn our Last Lord) was killed in a minor skirmish with King Edward I of England’s soldiers. After that Wales was never again a fully sovereign state. For many Welsh people, especially those who would like to see the country become an independent nation once more, this is still a matter of raw grief and the name of the place a rallying cry, as evidenced in these sparse englynion by one of the leading modern Welsh-language poets, Gerallt Lloyd Owen (1944-2014). I think that most English people have by now more or less come to terms with the rather unfortunate result of the Battle of Hastings (spoiler alert: we lost). The Welsh are made of sterner stuff and do not roll over so easily!
The fairly literal translation that follows is my own. The formal sound-patterns (cynghanedd) of the Welsh are lacking, of course.
Fin nos fan hyn
Fyth nid anghofiwn hyn.
Y nant a welaf fan hyn
A welodd Llywelyn,
Camodd ar y cerrig hyn.
Fin nos, fan hyn
O’r golwg nesâi’r gelyn.
Fe wnaed y cyfan fan hyn.
Rwyf fi’n awr fan hyn
Lle bu’i wallt ar welltyn,
A dafnau o’i waed fan hyn.
Fan hyn yw ein cof ni,
Fan hyn sy’n anadl inni,
Fan hyn gynnau fu’n geni.
Gerallt Lloyd Owen
Here at the edge of night
They slew Llywelyn.
Never shall we forget.
The stream that I see here
He stepped upon this stone.
Here at the edge of night
The enemy drew near
Unseen. All happened here.
Here where I am now
Cradled his head once.
Here is our memory.
Here, the air we breathe.
Here, just now, our birth.
And no mention of Llywelyn would be complete without a reference to the very fine elegy for him written at the time by Gruffudd ab Yr Ynad Coch, a poet who saw well what a disaster this was for Wales. A full translation by Anthony Conran can be found in the Penguin Book of Welsh Verse. Just as a taster, here are some famous lines from it, in my own translation:
Oni welwch chi hynt y gwynt a’r glaw?
Oni welwch goed derw’n ymdaro?
Oni welwch chi’r môr yn parlysu’r tir?
Oni welwch chi’r gwir yn ymgreinio?
Oni welwch chi’r haul yn yr awyr yn hwylio?
Oni welwch chi’r sêr wedi syrthio?
Oni chredwch chi yn Nuw, ddynion gwirion?
Oni welwch chi’r byd wedi darfod?
Do you not see the way of the wind and rain?
Do you not see oak trees clashing together?
Do you not see the sea assaulting the land?
Do you not see truth laid low?
Do you not see the sun forsaking the sky?
Do you not see that the stars have fallen?
Do you not believe in God, o foolish men?
Do you not see that the world has ended?