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Sadness in Spring -- Anonymous

Guest poem sent in by David Fortin
(Poem #1187) Sadness in Spring
 Maytime, loveliest season,
 Loud bird-parley, new growth green,
 Ploughs in furrow, oxen yoked,
 Emerald sea, land-hues dappled.

 When cuckoos call from fair tree-tops
 Greater grows my sorrow;
 Stinging smoke, grief awake
 For my kinsfolk's passing.

 On hill, in vale, in ocean's isles,
 Whichever way man goes,
 Blest Christ there's no evading.
-- Anonymous
   (13th century Welsh poem)

In the original Welsh:

 'Tristwch yn y Gwanwyn'

  Cyntefin ceinaf amser,
  Dyar adar, glas calledd,
  Ereidr yn Rhych, ych yng ngwedd,
  Gwyrdd mor, brithotor tiredd.

  Ban ganont gogau ar flaen gwydd gwiw,
  Handid mwy fy llawfrydedd,
  Tost mwg, amlwg anhunedd,
  Can ethynt fy ngheraint yn adwedd.

  Ym mryn, yn nhyno, yn ynysedd mor,
  Ymhob ffordd ydd eler
  Rhag Crist gwyn nid oes ynialedd.

This is a favorite poem of mine, and, given that we just celebrated St.
David's Day (March 1) and have a war that will probably begin in the not too
distant future, I felt it was appropriate.  I've included the Welsh text for
anyone interested in the poetic elements of the original.

This very interesting poem comes from a 13th century medieval Welsh
manuscript by an anonymous author.  It starts out like many nature poems,
praising the end of winter and the appearance of spring--much as we do, even
to this day.  In the Middle Ages, spring was the period of rejuvenation of
life and the end of the days of want and famine of winter.

However, in the second stanza, the poem takes a turn.  Rather than being
happy about the burgeoning of life in nature, instead the poet is sad
because spring also begins the season for warfare.  I can't say that I've
seen too many examples of this contrast being made-- between Spring the
Life-Bringer and Spring the War-Bringer.

The translation is from The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English (Oxford,

David Fortin
Doctoral Candidate
The Catholic University of America

44 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

wallace daughter said...

Lovely poem.
I have welsh friends who are both musicians and I will show them the poem.It makes one feel serene.

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