Monday, July 22, 2019

Daffyd ap Gwilym

Daffyd ap Gwilym (c.1315—c.1350) is a Welsh poet, born into an aristocratic family. About 170 of his poems survive, although others have also been attributed to him in the past.

In a day when Welsh court poets kept themselves out of their verse, he made himself (or a fictionalized version of himself) the focus of his poetry — perhaps due to the influence of French poets. He wrote praise for rich patrons, and poems of erotic love and nature — “The Girls of Llanbadarn” being a shameless, youthful, self-mocking lament at being rejected by the girls he sees in church.

Two rival Welsh communities claim to be his burial place. It is thought that Daffyd ap Gwilym may have been a victim of the Black Death. Besides what the poet tells us, little is known about him. The sculpture pictured is found in Cardiff City Hall.

The Skylark

The lark’s special hours of prayer
Spiral up from its house each day,
world’s early bird, spate of gold song,
Heavenwards, April’s porter.

Graceful voice, melody’s helmsman,
Sweet path, lovely labour is yours,
Shaping song above hazel groves,
Grey wings’ gracious achievement.
Yours the spirit, precious task,
And high-flown speech for preaching,
Strong song from the fount of faith,
Privileged in God’s presence.
Aloft you soar, cai’s own power,
And aloft you sing each song.
Bright spell near the wall of stars,
Zenith’s long circling journey,
Full measure, you have mounted
High enough: the prize is yours.

Let every good creature praise
Its Creator, pure bright Ruler.
Cease not, thousands hear it, it’s worthy,
To praise God as He decrees.
Love’s author’s way, where are you?
Clear sweet voice, in grey-brown garb.
Yours is pure cheerful singing,
Melody-maker, russet muse.
Chanter of heaven’s chapel,
Fair the omen, skilful are you,
Ploughland franchise, frequent deft lyric,
Crested, and the cloak is brown.

Set a course for well-known skies,
Singer, wild moorland region
One beholds you high above
Surely, when the day is longest.
When you arise to worship,
Gift bestowed by the Trinity,
Not a treetop sustains you
Above the world, you’re eloquent,
But the just Father’s graces,
His miraculous providence.

Teacher of praise dawn to darkness,
Descend, may God bless your wings.
My fair brown bird, my envoy,
And my fellow bard, if you’d go,
Bring greetings to a beauty,
Radiant her gift, Gwynedd’s moon,
And seek one of her kisses
To bring here to me, or two.
Lord of the sky’s chartless sea,
Hover by her hall yonder:
Small matter, may I be with her,
Eiddig’s anger, one morning.

For your wretched slaughter the fine
Is such that none dare slay you.
Should he try it, bold plotting,
Eiddig’s bane, you’ll stay alive:
Great the compass that’s your birdcage,
You’re so far from bow and hand.
Stamping the ground , sad the bowman,
His great aim will go awry:
Wicked his wrath, wheel above him
While he with his arrow goes by.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.