The Hills Remain

It’s true that in this place, today,
heroes are in short supply,
and deeds of valour done no more.
But still it’s told
that in these domed and watching hills
– how many years ago? –
armour sparkled in the sun
and banners cracked in answer to the wind,
shafts were notched and bows were bent,
and in these very vales were bred
a race of men who would pursue their cause
unto the bitter end.
And were they wrong,
to stand against the storm,
these men who sleep
– and who knows where? –
beneath green ferns and golden gorse?
The bells of seven centuries
have rung out since that day.
Our armour’s rusted through and through,
and it’s not done
– I wonder why?  –
to say too much in praise of them – those men.
But the valleys and the hills remain.
The crows still circle, just the same.

From ‘Welsh Past and Present’

6 thoughts on “The Hills Remain

  1. Very powerful writing. My favourite lines are “and banners cracked in answer to the wind” and “The crows still circle, just the same”. I feel a similarity to Gwyddbwyll and notice a similar theme in some of your other poems too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ceri. Yes, the poems echo the same sentiment. Strangely enough, the model for ‘The Hills Remain’ I took from a Classical Chinese poem – a very long one of which I have only ever seen a single translation out of the thousands with which I’ve become familiar, and hundreds of which I’ve translated; I plucked just thirteen lines out of the whole and played around with them to come up with ‘The Hills Remain’ (which, coincidentally, happens also to be the title of what is probably the most celebrated work by Tu Fu (712-770 AD), one of the most famed of all Chinese poets. The final line about the crows, which you mention, is something of a double entendre.

      ‘Gwyddbwll’ is the name of a board game mentioned several times in The Mabinogion, and is probably identical to ‘latrinculi’ ( or ‘soldiers’), a Roman battle-game for two players, played on a latticed board. In one of the Mabinogion tales ‘Breuddywyd Rhonabwy’ / ‘The Dream of Rhonabwy’), Arthur, transported forward in time, plays the game with Owein ab Uryen, and remarks – and this is significant to my poem – that the men of those days are as tiddlers compared to the heroes of the past. ‘Gwyddbwyll’ remains as modern Welsh for chess.

      I do believe there is a need for NOTES to accompany a good many of these poems of mine! 🙂

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  2. How interesting it is to find out the history of the word I currently use for chess and that this term was used in the Mabinogion. Your notes are very much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Vivienne. Yes, I feel that some poems require notes, and glad that you found the ones I mentioned when replying to Ceri’s comment to be of interest. I might, in future, be able to provide them along with the poems. 🙂

      Like

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