Monday, February 24, 2020

Waldo Williams

Waldo Williams (1904―1971) is a Welsh poet who, although he was raised as an English speaker, wrote in the Welsh language. He married Linda Llewellyn in 1941; he was grief-stricken when she died of tuberculosis only two years later, and he never remarried. In 1953 he joined the Quakers.

Waldo Williams was known as a Christian pacifist, and as a Welsh nationalist. He protested against the Korean War and military conscription by refusing to pay income tax; such action led to him twice being imprisoned.

Dail pren (The leaves of the tree) was the only volume of his poems published during his lifetime. The most comprehensive collection of Williams’ poetry in translation is Anthony Conran’s The Peacemakers: Selected Poems published by Gomer Press in 1997.

The following poem was translated by Menna Elfyn

What is it to be human?

What is staying alive? To possess
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.

What is it to believe? Being a carer
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.

What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What's work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.

What are state affairs? A craft
That's still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby's fist.

Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What's the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.

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.