Ethos

I am the ragged hedgerow glistening with rain,
the rank tussock in the tumbled field,
the rough gold of the rampant gorse:
the random dotted sheep,
the hawk before the wind.
I am the sheer stone of the mountain:
I am the still waters of the lake.
I am the shrouded upland
and the chapeled valley:
I am the lonely farm against the hill.

I am the green pillow under the head of the hero
and the soil that gathers his life’s blood;
the crimson that remains in women’s minds.
A stained and naked blade, I am.
I am the head on the spear,
the neck in the gallows,
the accused on the writ,
the son disinherited,
the singer forbidden to sing;
the bow bent and the lives rent
in the armies of the diaspora.
I am the waste land and the wasted years.
I am she who hurled down the gates
of the west, and he
who unfurled the blood-red banner
in the east:
I am the child beneath the yoke.

I am the toiler on the green slope,
the spinner of molten steel,
the delver in black dust.
The proud slave among dark stacks am I –
aye, and the dancing scarlet on the field.
I am the name inked in the Book
and incised upon the stone.
The image on the wall,
the lock in the pendant,
the laugh and the cry
and the curve of the pen-stroke.
The winding ages made me.

I am the quiescent resolution of your soul,
the still word that gathers,
the just fire that waits.
The axe and the flame of the mind.

From ‘Welsh Past and Present’

11 thoughts on “Ethos

  1. Of all these wonderful poems, this may be my favourite yet. The first stanza, full of glorious assonance and alliteration, transports me back over sixty years, to the ‘Urling and the lower slopes of Pwll yr Iwrch, in my home town.. I can feel the rain on my face and the wind in my hair, smell the coconut scent of the gorse flowers and hear the mew of the buzzard overhead. Now, once again part of the diaspora, my blood is one with that of our fallen; my tears blend with those of their widows and children. I am one with the farmer, the iron-worker, the coal-miner. With the poet, I identify with all those who have suffered ‘under the yoke’ but whose spirit remains unbowed.

    Like

  2. I like the way you mix pastoral imagery with spiritual symbolism. The poem emphasises the power of the human mind to both divide and unite under the Universal phrase I AM: the name of God and the spiritual fire which lights the passion in the soul… This is a well written and carefully thought out poem.

    Like

    1. Thank you, Michael. Yes, it is the spirit – the spirit of Wales – which speaks to us here, through the ‘I am’ utterances of the quintessential Taliesin.

      Like

    1. Thank you, Aled723. I must say that, especially in the context, those are words which gave me not a little satisfaction! Much obliged.

      Like

  3. Definitely captures the spirit of Wales: the oneness with the land, the defiance and, finally, the quiet strength captured from stanza to stanza

    Like

    1. Thank you, CEKnight! All those of the past, and what has been inherited from them, were in my mind for this one. Toward the end my thoughts were with the hardships experienced by all the dear relatives I remember who were born in the 19th century.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.