Hinrich Kuhls kls at online-club.de
Tue Apr 10 14:18:11 MDT 2001

Wales and Cymry Cymraeg

>Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
>Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
>Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mad,
>Tros rddid collasant eu gwaed.
>Gwlaed! Gwlaed! pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad,
>Tra mor yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
>O bydded i'r heniaith barhau.

"If the images of Wales are often monolithic, they are often liquid too.
This is a country surrounded on three sides by the sea, and watered
everywhere by magnificent lakes and rivers, black, secret and allegedly
bottomless in high montain hollows, pouring in their hundreds over
cataracts and through rocky defiles from the uplands to the coasts. Water
is a very Welsh element. It was out of the sea that the Welsh saints came:
the wandering holy men who, perilously navigating the Irish Sea in their
leather coracles, settled on capes and islands all around the shores of
Wales, establishing their lonely hermitages, building simple churches,
performing miracles, and leaving behind them a particular limpidity that
has never quite been obscured. ...

"This limpid liquidity finds its perfect instrument in the Welsh language,
which is the very opposite of the four-square, hard-cornered Latinate
languages, and indeed is so fond of slur and elision that its initial
letters often mutate, to facilitate the glide from one word to the next - a
process aptly called in Welsh treiglad, wandering. The language proclaims
its mellifluous and idiosyncratic meander for all to see in its place
names: Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant (The Holy Place by the Falls of the Pig's
Brook), Moel Llys-y-Coed (The Bare Mountain of the Court of the Wood), or
Pistyll Rhaeadr, which simply means, in a robustly indigenous form of
emphasis, Waterfall Cataract.

"Once such sounds were heard over much of Europe, in the days when the
Celts were powerful from Turkey to Ireland, but gradually conqueror's
tongues replaced them, until today the Celtic languages are spoken only in
Ireland, in the western parts of Scotland, vestigially in Cornwall, in
Brittany and in Wales: and of these survivors only Welsh can presently
claim to be a complete contemporary tongue, spoken by many people as their
ordinary vernacular, but expressing itself also in the full range of
poetry, novels, magazines, plays, television shows, rock lyrics, satirical
reviews and official documents. ...

"Welsh is a life-giving language. It makes the Cymry Cymraeg, often
diffident and defensive when they are speaking English, superbly confident
when they break into Welsh, releasing all their wit and speed of response:
as Giraldus Cambrensis remarked as long ago as the twelfth century, 'these
people being of a sharp and acute intellect ... are more quick and cunning
than the other inhabitants of a western clime'. In parts of Wales where the
language has died one often feels a melancholy emptiness in the air,
something missing, something saddened: conversely in parts where it is
still vigorously alive its presence provides an ancient solace and
stimulation, sealing friendships, maintaining loyalties, and making
everything seem more virile and vivacious. ...

"If the watery element symbolizes something hard to pin down in Wales, it
symbolizes too a restlessness often apparent in the people. Whether or not
they speak the language, the Welsh are generally devoted to their own
particular patch of the country, to farm or valley, Cardiff pub or chapel
in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. But they have often been wandering people too,
as though from time to time they have felt the need to break away from
these old grey walls and changeless mountains. They have gone off in search
of jobs of course, but also in search of wider, less material prospects,
and they have come home again, as often as not, rich in experience as in
hard cash. This makes for an ironic dichotomy in the spirit of Wales. While
Welsh people who stay at home can be more than usually stay-at-home,
Welshmen who have travelled seem gifted with an extra dimension of freedom,
as though they have been permanently liberated from the smallness and
oldness of Wales itself, and carry around with them, whereever they are,
some serendipitous advantage of release. ..."

From: Wales - The First Place, by Jan Morris (text) and Paul Wakefield
(photographs), Aurum Press 1982.

Dymuniadau gorau,


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