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Spring Song, Meirionydd -- John Dressel

Guest poem submitted by Stefan Bartels:
(Poem #1457) Spring Song, Meirionydd
 A white combustion rules these fields,
 and testifies to men, and rams;
 the mind of winter thaws, and yields--
 Great God, the world is drunk with lambs.

 The high grey stone is clean of snows,
 the streams come tumbling, far from dams;
 the wind is green, the day's eye grows--
 Great God, the world is drunk with lambs.

 The heart, gone light as all the ewes,
 redounds with milk, and epigrams
 that make no sense; except their news--
 Great God, the world is drunk with lambs.

 In gold October, grown to size,
 they'll know the hook, and hang with hams,
 but March is all their enterprise--
 Great God, the world is drunk with lambs.
-- John Dressel
While staying at a school in North Wales on an exchange program, I
stumbled upon this poem in an old school reader. I haven't been able to
find any information about John Dressel -- the name doesn't sound Welsh,
anyway -- but the poem still reminds me of the lambing on the Welsh
hillsides in late February and early March. The world is really "drunk
with lambs" then.

Dressel maintains a fine balance between a nature poem and an ironic,
sceptical poem. Nature is abundant, but man is always in the picture
from the second line in the first to the second line in the fourth
stanza. Seemingly a negligible detail, man is yet the most momentous
influence on the life of lambs, which, I think, come across more as
ignorant than innocent in this poem. The buoyant rhythm and indomitable
metaphors keep this poem from being just another complaint about cruelty
to animals. It is uplifting, not pessimistic.


[Minstrels Links]

Poem #14, Prologue  -- Dylan Thomas
Poem #138, Fern Hill  -- Dylan Thomas
Poem #175, I am Taliesin -- Anon. (Welsh, 13th century)
Poem #270, Under Milk Wood  -- Dylan Thomas
Poem #333, Gnomic Stanzas  -- Anon. (Welsh, 12th century)
Poem #374, Psalm Of the Valleys  -- Alex Pascall

Lambs, sheep and other Similar Characters:
Poem #120, The Purple Cow  -- Gelett Burgess
Poem #424, The Moonsheep  -- Christian Morgenstern
Poem #507, The Sheep-Child  -- James Dickey
Poem #1080, The Lama -- Ogden Nash

21 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Frank O'Shea said...

What a little gem! I will never eat Welsh lamb again.

Talking about lamb poems, there is also Katherine Tynan's poem beginning
"All in the April evening / April airs were abroad." I will send it in
April. And Eleanor Farjeon's lovely "Mrs Malone." Will send that another


Carolyn McGrath said...

Really liked the poem - something very Welsh in it - a glance to the morbid
in the midst of joy!
(But maybe that says more about my family than anyone else!)

Had a look on the web and found a Jon Dressel who sounds like he fits the
bill - "a Welsh American poet with strong Carmarthenshire links". He has
worked collaboratively with T. James Jones, "a Newcastle Emlyn born crowned
bard", to write a poem about the people of Llanelli for the National
Eisteddfod in Llanelli in 1930. They have since composed two poems, one in
English and another in Welsh to present to the people of Llanelli at the
National Eisteddfod's millennium visit to Llanelliin the year 2000.

Carolyn McGrath

RhondaD68 said...

I was just looking up stuff on John Dressel, to try to find him. He was the
Director of the Wales program for American Students in the 1980's. He wrote
poems while there, as did his son, Jon Dressel. He has a pub in St. Louis,
called Dressels.

Rhonda D.

Mary Widlake said...

Jon Dressel was Director of American Studies at Trinity College Carmarthen, South Wales. He worked there in the 1980's and probably beyond. He was an American who organised exchange study sabbaticals for American students at Trinity college. He had a home in Llanstephan I believe

Hazel White said...

I believe he spells his name "Jon" and yes, he is a Missourian who owns a Welsh pub in St. Louis. In union with T. James Jones, he wrote "Wyneb Yn Wyneb" / "Face to Face" which both Welsh and Americans should read with deep thought. It is a "meeting" of Owain Glyndwr and Robert E Lee on 18/19 September 1997. (Note that date.)

Another of their poems is "Rhubanau dur" / "Ribbons of Steel", a story relating to the Welsh tin industry which was badly hurt by the McKinley tariff. The outcomes was a large migration of Welsh to America in search of jobs.


Carol said...

Jon Dressel was the director of the Wales study program for Central College in Pella, Iowa when I went to Central and studied in Wales in 1987-88. He had been in Wales for a while before that and I think he might be the only American to have won the Eisteddfod - forgive me if my memory fails. The program was originally in Carmarthen at Trinity College, and later moved north, can't quite remember the new location... his son now owns Dressels Pub in St. Louis. Long live the Cymru! Carol (Central College '90)

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