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Welsh Poetry


To Love a Poet or a Soldier?

Dafydd ap Gwilym (translated from the Welsh)

Think also, Eigr's peer in beauty,
That… it is not it good to love a hero…
lest - it is not a pleasant thought -
being a soldier he should be too harsh.
Too boorish will he be, his nature wild,
He will love war, and all accursedness.
If he should hear - a fierce, perverse compulsion -
of battle in the land of France, or Scotland,
to seek adventure, yonder on his way,
a man enlisted, he will run off there.
If it by chance befall that he escape
from there, with skill curbing the French
he'll be all scarred, a bowman will have shot him,
and brutal too, my splendid dazzling girl.
He prefers yonder his heavy lance
and his sword - woe who puts faith in him -
his corselet of steel and stupid shield
and his war-horse, to a sweet girl.
He won't protect you when there comes a cry of pain:
only by violence will he fetch you from your home.

But I, endowed with sprightly speech,
were I to win you, bright hue of shining gossamer,
well do I know - I would weave expert praise,
come, girl, how I would ever cherish you.

(From Dafydd ap Gwilym: A Selection of Poems. Translated by Rachel
Bromwich (Penguin, 1985)
Reproduced by kind permission of Gomer Press.)

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