Last year I walked the Snowdonia Way in Wales. I took a day off from walking in the town of Trawsfynydd, kindly translated by a local I met on the way as ‘over the mountain.’ One of the best things about walking long distances is the way the land and its history introduce themselves, slowly and deeply. In the hostel at Trawsfynydd, I met another american traveller who had come to visit the home of the poet Hedd Wyn, Ellis Evans, who won the the National Eisteddfod Bard’s Chair in 1917, six weeks after dying on a battlefield in Belgium. I joined him the next day on a visit to Yr Ysgwrn, the bard’s home, where we were the only two visitors who needed the tour translated from Welsh. Today, his poetry has been on my mind (not only because of the copious harp imagery), along with all the poetry not written by him and countless others. Here are some of his words and some tourist’s photos from my visit to his home:
Woe that I live at this fell time,
When God has ebbed so far away,
And man into his place did climb,
Both king and churl to demand sway.
When he felt God no longer near,
He raised the killing sword aloft:
The sound of battle fills the ear,
Its shadows on the poor man’s croft.
The ancient harps which once were played
Now hang on willows over there,
And in the rain boys’ blood is made
To flow; their screaming fills the air.
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