Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dafydd ap Gwilym VIII

Unhappy the man who is in love except in the summer, fruitless his prayers and great his desires. After the one night I had with the girl, all that is left me of that love-affair is my recollection of it, and the winter, I swear, is angry, black and bare after Christmas: and the snow, sure sign of the cold, and the frost and numerous icicles.
Coming drunk from the tavern, disgruntled and in a wretched humour, I went to look for her, terrified lest I find her making love to some other handsome man. Through the wood in the valley I went, feeling no love at all, till I arrived at the stone wall inside which the beauty lives.
There was a dismal sound of dripping from the eaves like an overflowing cheesepot; but when I arrived there I felt a kind of relief because of the danger close at band beyond the wall. Thick under the edge of the cold roof were the frosty icicles, freezing cold, and cleverly the drops contrived to fall into my mouth as I stood at the mercy of the frost and the whistling rime of the ice. The frost bit me like a rake, and the cold went through me like the tender teeth of a harrow. As I stood in the porch the drops fell angrily on me from Jealousy's fine candles of ice, like freezing tears, and the snow drove every recollection out of me but that of black frost.

While my head endured the pangs of the drips from these cold spindles and the dismal sounds, I knocked on the window with my band, hearing within the sounds of those in their first sleep, the man louder than the woman. Suspicious he nudged the pretty creature with his cold elbow, easily persuaded that someone was looking diligently for his money. Then the withered oaf rose out of his bed like a draught of foul air, enraged and terrified and calling "Villain" after me. And this was a dangerous journey for me, for he set a scoundrelly pack on me consisting of the whole town; and he, promising a candle to Mary at every sight of my footprints, bellowed after me with a hundred voices, "After him there! he's barefoot!"

So I fled with painful haste along the black back of the frost, till I came to the pleasant birch-wood which used to hide me in summer, thinking it to be, as I remembered it, a house of leaves under a fine roof, where the birds loved me and I saw the girl in May. But this was no trysting-place now, but a place of grief, even in the grove of the wood. No sign of love nor anything else did I see, nor any person nor any leaf, for the barren winter had winnowed the green warp of the leaves to the ground. And so I am begging May for a thaw before I freeze to death: I am a man imprisoned in winter; good luck to the summer and may it not be long coming!


  1. I wasn't familiar (or, to be honest, aware of) Dafydd ap Gwilym before I read this, but I intend to rectify that as soon as possible. Thanks, Sean!

  2. Like a Doubtful Egg I really must investigate.. That said there is a depressingly large pile of books upstairs that need reading...

  3. aaa, the dismays and the disappointments one feels...

    I also say, good luck to warm "summer" as the expectations are tremendous.

    Beautifully written.... :)

  4. I really enjoyed this and will be looking for more of this man's work. Thank you Sean!

  5. This is beautiful. But I am ignorant too. Is this a version, or a translation, by you? I hate not knowing. Thank you for your comment on my blog. It was very exciting! I rarely get comments and when I do they're by friends. This blog looks great. I look at Bock's from time to time but can't find many others worth reading in Irish blogs. Seem to be a lot of morons out there recording their uneventful lives, day by day, without any humour or insight.. I'm adding you to my list.

  6. D.E., Jams, Nevin, Janice, Ardent,
    glad the bard could make you smile. By clicking the labels you will find that what he's telling when not 'imprisoned in winter' is even more delightful.

    Welcome, and thanks for the kind compliment.
    Now, ‘hate’ is a word in my vocabulary that’s locked into the poison cabinet, and knowledge sometimes hard to bear, but (I think) I understand what you mean.
    As for your question: No. Unfortunately, my ability not to speak Welsh is almost perfect. However, once in the past millennium visiting Strata Florida Abbey I heard some of Dafydd ap Gwilym’s verses in Welsh, spontaneously bought a brochure with some translations and, the more often I read them the more I like them. And that’s why now and then I do (want to) share my pleasure.
    As for boring blog(ger)s – calling them all ‘morons’ is a bit harsh, hm?
    Anyway, checking the sidebar you will find the links to bloggers whose postings are seldom boring, and some of them are ‘even’ Irish. I am slightly sure, you will find at least quite a few of them intriguing, too; and – who knows? – some of them by visiting your blog might also like what they see.

    So, good luck with your poetry. May Pegasus give you good rides. :)

  7. As always with Dafydd Ap Gwilym:

    Silence admiratif...

    Beautiful photo.

    From Claude

  8. Thanks re feedback, Sean. It's fine to use the word 'hate' if its loathing over one's own lack of knowledge, imo. And how close that word is to love... Thanks re links. Literally have no time to check them out right now but will do when things are less hectic. No, don't think I was unfair re "boring bloggers". There are many excellent blogs - Irish included. But I found it depressing recently to see so many bloggers cocooned in the trivial details of their own lives, and writing, "I..I...I" day after day, during the bombing of Gaza. But there's life for you. Off to meet Pegasus...

  9. Claude,

    quite. However, what would any individual's) life be like, were we all thinking, talking and blogging about each atrocity happening on this planet. There'd be no joke, joy, laughter and happiness, at all.
    Again, I do agree to what you wrote like I do agree to the Chinese saying 'Ignorance is the mildest form of intolerance'.
    Still, ... look above ... :)

    what a bard, hm?! :)