Friday, 20 May 2016

Waldo (Goronwy) Williams (30/9/04 -20/5/71 ) - Blessed are the Peacemakers


Waldo Goronwy Williams is regarded as a mythical figure, here in Wales. No one who knew him bore a grudge towards him , and to many  he is seen as one of the greatest Welsh language poets of the twentieth century.
He was also a Quaker, a notable pacifist , anti-war campaigner and Welsh Nationalist. Born on the 30th September 1904 in Haverfordwest he moved to North Pembrokeshire to Mynachlog-ddu , ( an area local to me, that I am particularly fond of.) with his family when he was seven years old where his  father was the head teacher of the local primary school. His father spoke Welsh and his mother English, and in his younger days he himself only spoke English. subsequently learning Welsh from his childhood playmates. He studied English at Aberystwyth University and taught in a number of Pembrokeshire schools,  standing  as the Plaid Cymru candidate for Pembrokeshire in 1959, where he won a 4.52% share of the votes.
He was a conscientious objector during the Second World War. The strength of his convictions led to him breaking the law by refusing to pay his income tax in protest against the role of the British Government in the Korean War. He continued his protest until the end of compulsory military service. During this period his campaigning earned him time in prison.
His work was touched by romanticism  but also often carried a political message.The horror of war is evident in his poems during World War 11 and he wrote his most poignant  poetry during the years that followed the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Williams belonged first of all to the Welsh tradition of the Cerdd Gwlad (folk poets) a poet who served his locality by celebrating its life and people in verse. A poet of considerable ability in Cynghaned and free verse, with delicate use of alliteration,a delicate weaver of wisdom . But he was also inspired by the mystical revelation he had as a youth about the unity of the whole of mankind.His faith in the brotherhood  off all men. This revelation was realised in the cooperative and harmonious living he witnessed among the farming communities in the Preseli Hills and reflected in the feeling of belonging, knowing and desire that people should live together in peace expressed in his memorable poetry. It was also a threatened society the Governments establishment of a firing range (so reminiscent of the decision to set up a bombing school at LLyn in the late 30's) was the catalyst for the production of a small group of powerful poems about Welsh nationhood, with the will to resist as the central theme.
Personal tragedy marked his life too following the death of his wife Linda from tuberculosis in 1943, and the strength of his convictions would lead to periods of intense mental suffering, his questioning of humanity's frequent inhumanities.
He died  on tthe twentieth of May in 1971 at St Thomas's Hospital Haverfordwest and is buried at Blanconin Chapel Burial ground in Llandisillio. Known for his kindness and unassuming manner, this visionary pacifist leaves a moral and cultural legacy that is immense.A poet who remains of national importance.  Blessed are the peacemakers.  
Many of Waldo's poems can be read in translation. The most comprehensive being ' The Peacemakers : Selected Poems , Gomer, 1997, in which I reproduce the following poem, a personal favourite that remains profoundly moving.
There is a memorial monolith dedicated to him situated near the Preseli mountains at Rhosfech common.

 
Pa Beth yw Dyn?

Beth yw byw? Cael neuadd fawr
Rhwng cyfyng furiau.
Beth yw abnabod? Cael un gwraidd
Dan y canghennau.

Beth yw credu? Gwarched tref
Nes dyfod derbyn.
Beth yw maddau? Cael  fford trwy'r drain
At ochr hen elyn.

Beth yw canu? Cael o'r creu
Ei hen athrylith.
Beth yw gweithio ond gwneud can
O'r coed a'r gwenith?

Beth yw trefnu terynas? Crefft
Sydd eto'n cropian.
A'i harfogi? Rhoi'r cyllyll
Yn llaw'r baban.

Beth yw bod yn genedl? Dawn
Yn  nwfn y galon.
Beth yw gwladgarwch? Cadw ty
Mewn cwmwl tystion.

Beth yw'r byd i'r nerthol mawr?
Cylch yn treiglo.
Beth yw'r byd i blant y llawr?
Crud yn siglo. 

What is Man ?

To live, what is it? It's having
A great hall between cramped walls.
To know another, what's that? Having
The same root under the branches.

To believe, what is it? Guarding a town
Until acceptance comes.
Forgiveness, what's that? A way through thorns
To an old enemy's  side.

Singing, what is it? The ancient
Genius of the creation.
What's work but making a song
Of the trees and the wheat?

To rule a kingdom, what's that? A craft
That is crawling still.
And to arm it? You put a knife
In a baby's hand.

Being a nation, what is it? A gift
In the depths of the heart.
Patriotism, what's that? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What's the world to the strong?
Hoop a-rolling.
To the children of earth, what is it?
A cradle rocking.

Rememberance/Cofio

translated by Alan Llwyd 

One fleeting moment as the sun is setting,
One gentle moment as the night falls fast
To bring to mind the things that are forgotten,
Now scattered in the dust ages of the past.

Like white-foamed waves that break on lonely beaches,
Like the win's song where no one hears the wind,
They beckon us, I know, but to no pupose-
The old forgotten things of humankind..

The artistry and skills of early peoples,
Small dwelling-places and enormous halls,
Old well-told tales that have been lost for ages,
The gods that now no mortal could recall.

And little words of languages long-vanished,
Lithe words once lively on the lips of men,
And pretty in the prattle of small children,
No tongue will ever utter them again.

Oh, earth’s innumerable generations,
Their sacred dreams and fragile sanctity,
Is the heart silent that was once acquainted
With sadness and with gladness and with glee ?

Often at close of day, when I am lonely,
Ilong to know you all, bring all to mind;
Is there a heart or memory still to cherish
The old forgotten things of humankind?

One fleeting moment as the sun is setting,
One gentle moment as the night falls fast,
To bring to mind the things that are forgotten,
Now scattered in the dust of ages past.

Like white-foamed waves that break on lonely beaches,
Lke the wind’s song where no one hears the wind,
They beckon us, I know, but to no purpose –
The old forgotten things of humankind.

The artistry and skills of early peoples,
Small dwelling-places and enormous halls,
Old well-told tales that have been lost for ages,
The gods that now no mortal could recall.

And little words of languages long-vanished,
Lithe words once lively on the lips of men,
And pretty in the prattle of small children,
No tongue will ever utter them again.

Oh, earth’s innumerable generations,
Their sacred dreams and fragile sanctity,
Is the heart silent that was once acquainted
With sadness and with gladness and with glee ?

Often at close of day, when I am lonely,
I long to know you all, bring all to mind;
Is there a heart or memory still to cherish
The old forgotten things of humankind?




No comments:

Post a Comment