Sunday, March 1, 2009

It's St. David's Day

It's the day to honor all things Welsh, so with that in mind, here's Dafydd ap Gwilym, pursuing a metaphor:

A Girl, a Bird and a Birch-tree

A lover's choicest desire,
oh Lord God, will there come before long
(if his stout praise be ready)
4 a splendid girl and an eloquent bird?
There was not (despite learning to watch)
for a loving lad, pale and modest,
a craft as pleasant (despite a flood of passion)
8 as caring for a girl who was loved
and walking (spending a long time)
the nooks and clusters of trees
like a huntsman, a lively sportsman,
12 who for a wild deer would chase
from place to place in passion,
from grove to grove (a second Enid [is she]),
and a little bird who keeps sense for us
16 on the edge of the sky praising her.

[With] a clear voice, call the girl like Esyllt
would the worthy and wild messenger,
with a golden beak, on a twig,
20 by his faith, seeing [the] girl.
Pleasant (were the tears that flow to allow it)
would be clearly to hear
the great exuberance of the bird of May
24 under the verdant birch of the splendid girl,
a radiant knight with a skilful tune,
golden on verdant leaves.
He would sing a lively harmony
28 from hour to hour, [it was] great pain when he was [doing so].
He would not go, fine, gentle tone,
silver-voiced bird, from any grove
(a clear, high, thoughtful song)
32 more than a hermit would (narrow branches).

It would be fitting, in houses of birch,
if the bird would come to the grove of leaves,
small birch-trees with snug stockings,
36 a gentle basket, green and pretty,
a fair birch-tree with a roof of hair of the same age,
a splendid tower on the brow of the hill.
Growth without the hewing of an adze,
40 a house, on a single pillar it grows.
A green posy of enchanting throngs of an embrace of leaves,
whisks standing on stubble,
dark-furred, May's dandy,
44 a verdant, thick roof, God's blessing on it.

It was a pleasant craft, by the relic,
to kiss a girl of a constant word,
and to look, after our fine passing of time
48 between ourselves (bands of sunlight)
through the mantle of my glorious woman,
[at the] hills, pennies of lust,
and to bend [my] body
52 (blue eyes today, of a weak colour,
the beauty of a gem of radiant praise)
over the girl who committed deceit.

Translation of "Merch, Aderyn a Bedwen" from Dafydd ap, a site maintained by the Welsh Dept. of Swansea University. (Go here to read the poems. Click on the Welsh title in the dropdown menu, and then click on the lower right menu for the English translation.)

Photo of a daffodil (which, along with the leek, is a national symbol of Wales) from Wikimedia Commons


Mary said...

My Welsh blood thanks you!

BitterGrace said...

So you're Welsh, Mary? Me, too--and David as well. He can even read and speak a little Welsh.

I thought about you when I posted the poem, since it's from your favorite era.

Mary said...

Yes indeed. My 6xgreat grandfather was Nicholas Guyther. He came from Wales as an indentured servant to Maryland in the late 1600's.

I just re-read the poem. Oh, I do love it!

BitterGrace said...

It is a great poem. Takes a little work--looks like it was a bear to translate! You might enjoy rooting around that site where I got it. Great stuff. Will make you proud to be Welsh.