Gosh, there are so many things going on right now, aren’t there?! So much material for a well-informed, opinionated blogger with strong political and social views to work with. BLM, the moronic reactions to BLM, iconoclasm, and still the ongoing virus issue, with its many economic and social ramifications …
Where to begin?
Why, with Fourteenth Century Welsh Poetry, of course.
As promised back in 2018 and reminded last week, I have long intended to write about and share my translations of the wonderful Welsh bard, Dafydd ap Gwilym (Dave, son of Bill). I even gave you a snippet — but only in the original Welsh.
I’ve been doing recitations thereof at poetry gatherings and Fringe shows since 2014, so I sort of assumed it had already been covered some time in the last four bloody long, lonely years.
All those moons ago, it was stated that a video of a new translation, that of Trafferth mewn Tafarn (Trouble at t’Pub) was about to be uploaded. And indeed it was to my Youtube channel, my website, my facebook and twitter pages (yes, I’m all over the net like a nasty rash). But the blog remained unsullied.
And so it shall now, as I wish rather to take you back, dear reader, to my first effort, when I discovered the poet, as far back as 2009.
Dafydd ap Gwilym was, after Taliesin and Aneurin around the 6th Century, one of the great historic poets of Wales, cysglyd gwlad y gân, as Cerys Matthews puts it. Born around 1315 in Ceredigion (Cardiganshire), just outside Aberystwyth in fact, he died, possibly (if you want a contemporary connection) during a plague epidemic in 1350.
I could cut and paste stuff about him from Wikipedia, but why bother, when you can find the full spiel easily yourself?
Suffice to say that his c170 poems that survive cover a wide range of subjects, but he’s most noted for nature poems and love poems, the latter being quite earthy. This is less surprising when you consider he was only a few years before Geoffrey Chaucer in England, another writer noted for his raunchy writings. Indeed, when people have accused me of inserting a bit of gratuitous ‘blue’ language into my renditions, I’ve had to point out that, if anything, I’ve taken some of that out (not out of prudishness, obviously, just when the rhymes or rhythms made an alternative work better).
Some of his most erotic and romantic stuff is addressed to an unnamed lady, believed to be a married woman with whom ap Gwilym conducted a lengthy amour. But though he obviously had an eye for the lassies, not unlike Scotland’s ain dear Rabbie, it has been said that perhaps no poet in history was so frank in detailing his amatory failures.
This is particularly true of today’s offering, Merched Llanbadarn, The Girls of Llanbadarn (that being the parish in which he was probably born). Now read on …
The Girls of Llanbadarn (or The Last Unlaid Minstrel)
(freely translated from Merched Llanbadarn by Dafydd ap Gwylim, c1340)
Frustrated passion bends me double
A plague on girls, they’re too much trouble!
Because I never get a lay
from any one in any way.
No sweet young thing, no cheeky bitch
No naughty wife nor ugly witch.
What nastiness, what sinful traits
Make me so crap at finding mates?
Yet no fair lass e’er deems it good
To take me to some thick, dark wood.
No shame for her if there we fled
To roll upon a leafy bed.
Throughout my life I always loved
(So clinging has my ardour proved:
More than the guys down Garwy way!)
One or two girls every day
Yet even so I never scored
With one I fancied ~ or abhorred.
In Llanbadarn no Sunday passed
(Now pious folks will be aghast)
But I’d be eying up some broad
With just my neck turned to the Lord.
And after I had long surveyed
The parish beauties, thus arrayed,
You’d hear one bright, fresh little chit
Say to her friend, who’s known for wit:
‘That pale lad with the sneaky face
And girlish hair all o’er the place ~
He’s got bad things on his mind
His ways are of the evil kind!”
“So that’s the nature of his lies,”
The other sexy minx replies,
“Do it with him? Ha! What a farce!
“The stupid twat can kiss my arse!”
It’s rough for me but beauty’s curse
Repays me with a meagre purse
No recompense my ardour wins
But sticks me with frustration’s pins.
Somehow I’ll have to cut this noose,
If all I’m left is self-abuse
Poor wretch I’ll run from all this strife
And go and live a hermit’s life
And meditate on lessons learned
From too much looking, rearward turned.
So I, whose verses folks call great,
Yet shuffle off without a mate.
As I often say after reciting that, “and in 700 years the poet’s lot hasn’t changed a bit!”
Ho, and in a very real sense, hum.
PS Oops, I nearly forgot to add that the above translation and many other hilarious and original verses are still available in book form: buy Parodies Lost from Lucidity Books. Do it now!