Seamus, Who Came to Live Among Us

(for Seamus Kelegnan, 189-? – 1932 )

We buried him in a quiet corner of the churchyard,
under the shadow of the trees, not far
from the lichened Ogham stone.
His bearers were all young farming lads,
friends with whom he’d gather at the Fisherman’s
once or twice, or thrice, a week to talk of how things were
with them, and sing.
The Reverend had good words for him, which,
with all the crowded years gone by
I cannot fully now recall –  
how, although he had come among us as a stranger,
his kindliness of spirit had endeared him to us all;
how, although he had never forsaken
nor even been known to have professed –
a guessed Catholicism,
he had each Sunday been as faithful to Saint Eirion’s little llan
as he might have been to Brigid’s.

Slowly, inch by inch, they lowered him at last
it seemed an age – into the ground.
And when the first shovelful of earth had clashed upon the oaken box
I closed my hands about my face,
for it was as though the sound of it had echoed far and wide,
up to the people in the distant whitewashed farms
high upon the patchwork slopes of sheer-faced Carn Edeyrn,
among the workers toiling in the further far-off fields,
and to the fishers in their bobbing boats out in the bay –
and that it burst upon the air, for them,
like a mighty clap of thunder,
and they would stop in their worldly tasks
and look up at the cloud-hung sky and say:
“Oh, they are casting the earth upon the grave
of poor young Seamus Kelegnan today’.

Back home, I took a last look at his room,
and at the little he’d possessed.
His working clothes, his box of tools, small change
placed neatly in a pile. No photographs. No mail.
He had never, either, spoken of his age; I think perhaps
he had not exactly known of that himself.
Nothing there to show who he had been, nor from
what place he’d come; and so
no family with whom we could communicate
the tidings of his passing –
if any kin remained to him across that restless sea.

From ‘Welsh Past and Present’

The Good Old-fashioned Scrum

Dai poked Charlie in the eye.
Charles, half-blinded, went for Dai
but missed and biffed his fwend Cawwuthers –
who swung his fists at many others,
landing one on brawny Bryn,
who belted Wodney on the chin.
Wodney, not to be outdone,
kicked Llywelyn up the ‘Ouch!’
Llywelyn roared out loud
and, lunging forward in the crowd,
managed in that mad melee
to bite big Wodwick on the knee.
Wodwick, howling like a loon,
whopped tall Talfryn – none too soon,
for Talfryn, in retaliation,
had bit three others for his nation,
while Evans’ boots had brought the fight
to anything that moved in white.
Who knocked Wil’s teeth out? Fwy, the wat!
(Wil sang ‘false-setto’ after that).
They scragged and throttled any bugger;
it’s what is called ‘enjoying rugger’.
And round and round and up and down
they writhed and tumbled on the ground
like boiling cawl or minestrone,
with language worse than just ‘Baloney!’
In short, that scrum was not polite;
the social graces weren’t in sight.
Who cared the ref – perhaps the ball –
lay somewhere deep beneath it all?
The fault, of course, lay not with red
(at least, that’s what the crowd all said).

From ‘Welsh Past and Present’


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’