Sunday, April 11, 2010


All Rhuthyn's Woods are Ravaged

Robin Clidro (1545-1580), Marchan Wood, tr. Gwyn Williams in Welsh Poems: Sixth Century to 1600 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 87-88 (line numbers added by me):
A poem on behalf of the squirrels who went to London to file and make an affidavit on the bill for the cutting down of Marchan Wood, near Rhuthyn.

Odious and hard is the law
and painful to little squirrels.
They go all the way to London
with their cry and matron before them.
This red squirrel was splendid,    5
soft-bellied and able to read;
she conversed with the Council
and made a great matter of it.
When the Book was put under her hand
in the faith that this would shame her,    10
she spoke thus to the bailiff,
'Sir Bribem, you're a deep one!'
Then on her oath she said,
'All Rhuthyn's woods are ravaged;
my house and barn were taken    15
one dark night, and all my nuts.'
The squirrels are all calling
for the trees; they fear the dog.
Up there remains of the hill wood
only grey ash of oak trees;    20
there's not a stump unstolen
nor a crow's nest left in our land.
The owls are always hooting
for trees; they send the children mad.
The poor owl catches cold,    25
left cold without her hollow trunk.
Woe to the goats, without trees or hazels,
and to the sow-keeper and piglets!
Pity an old red-bellied sow
on Sunday, in her search for an acorn.    30
The chair of the wild cats,
I know where that was burnt.
Goodbye hedgehog! No cow-collar
nor pig-trough will come from here any more.
If a plucked goose is to be roasted,    35
it must be with bracken from Rhodwydd Gap.
No pot will come to bubbling,
no beer will boil without small twigs;
and if peat comes from the mountain
in the rain, it's cold and dear.    40
Cold will exhaust the housemaid,
with cold feet and a dripping nose.
There's no hollow trunk or branch,
nor a fence for the beating of an old thin snipe.
Yes, Angharad spoke the truth,    45
if we don't get coal it's goodbye to our land.'
Robin Clidro's poem is remarkable for its precise description of the ecological consequences of deforestation. Although I don't know Welsh, I always like to quote the original if possible:
Cywydd dros y gwiwerod a aeth i Lundain i ffilio ag i wneuthur affidafid ar y bil am dorri Coed Marchan yn ynyl Rhuthyn.

Blin ac afrydd yw’r gyfraith,
mac’n boen i’r gwiwerod bach;
mynad ar lawndaith i Lundain
â’u bloedd a’u mamaeth o’u blaen.
Gwych oedd hi’r wiwer goch hon,    5
dorllaes, yn medru darllen,
yn ymddiddan â’r cyngawr,
ac eto ma’n fater mawr.
Pan roed y llyfr dan ei llaw
a choel oedd i’w chywilyddiaw,    10
hi ddywed wrth y beili,
“Sir Bribwm, un twym wyt ti!”
Ar ei llw hi ddywed fal hyn,
anrheithio holl goed Rhuthyn
a dwyn ei thŷ a’i sgubor    15
liw nos du, a’i chnau a’i stôr.
"mae’r gwiwerod yn gweiddi
am y coed rhag ofn y ci.
Nid oes fry o goed y fron
Ond lludw y derw llwydion.    20
Nod oes gepyll heb ei gipio,
na nyth brân byth i’n bro.
Mae’r tylluanod yn udo
am y coed, yn gyrru plant o’u co’.
Gwae’r dylluan rhag annwyd,    25
oer ei lle am geubren llwyd!
Gwae’r geifr am eu coed a’u cyll,
a pherchen hwch a pherchyll!
Gwae galon hwch folgoch hen
Dduw Sul am le i gael mesen!    30
Cadair y cathod coedion,
mi wn y tu llosgwyd hon.
Yn iach draenog; nac aerwy
na chafn moch ni cheir mwy.
Os rhostir gŵydd foel, rhiad fydd    35
â rhedyn Bwlch y Rhodwydd.
Crychias ni feirw crochan,
na breci mwy heb bricie mân.
O daw mawnen o’r mynydd
a y glaw, oer a drud fydd.    40
Annwyd fydd yn lladd y forwyn,
oer ei thraed a defni o’i thrwyn.
Nid oes gaynac ysgyrren
na chae chwipio biach gul hen.
Gwir a ddywed Angharad,    45
oni cheir glo, yn iach in gwlad.”
Anonymous (16th century Welsh), Glyn Cynon Wood, tr. Gwyn Williams, id., pp. 89-90 (line numbers added by me):
Aberdare, Llanwynno through,
all Merthyr to Llanfabon;
there was never a more disastrous thing
than the cutting of Glyn Cynon.

They cut down many a parlour pure    5
where youth and manhood meet;
in those days of the regular star
Glyn Cynon's woods were sweet.

If a man in sudden plight
took to flight from foe,    10
for guest-house to the nightingale
in Cynon Vale he'd go.

Many a birch-tree green of cloak
(I'd like to choke the Saxon!)
is now a flamming heap of fire    15
where iron workers blacken.

For cutting the branch and bearing away
the wild birds' habitation
may misfortune quickly reach
Rowenna's treacherous children!    20

Rather should the English be
strung up beneath the seas,
keeping painful house in hell
than felling Cynon's trees.

Upon my oath, I've heard it said    25
that a herd of the red deer
for Mawddy's deep dark woods has left,
bereft of its warmth here.

No more the badger's earth we'll sack
nor start a buck from the glade;    30
no more deer-stalking in my day,
now they've cut Glyn Cynon's shade.

If ever a stag got into a wood
with huntsmen a stride behind,
never again will he turn in his run    35
with Cynon Wood in mind.

If the flour-white girl once came
to walk along the brook,
Glyn Cynon's wood was always there
as a fair trysting nook.    40

If as in times gone by men plan
to span the mountain river;
though wood be found for house and church
Glyn Cynon's no provider.

I'd like to call on them a quest    45
of every honest bird,
where the owl, worthiest in the wood,
as hangman would be heard.

If there's a question who rehearsed
in verse this cruel tale,    50
it's one who many a tryst has kept
in the depth of Cynon Vale.
I can't find all of this anonymous poem in Welsh, but these are the opening lines:
Aberdar, Llanwnno i gyd
plwy Merthyr hyd Lanfobon;
mwya adfyd a fu erioed
pan dorred Coed Glyn Cynon.

Torri llawer parlwr pur,    5
lle cyrchfa a gwyr a meibion;
yn oes dyddiau seren syw
mor arael yw Glyn Cynon.

Llawer bedwen glas ei chlog
(ynghrog y byddo'r Saeson!)    10
sydd yn danllwyth mawr o dan
gan wyr haearn duon.


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