The Moment by Waldo Williams

All mention of the Moment
Scholars must do without.
River suspends its flowing
And rock cries out
Witness to what
Our two eyes have no sight for
And our ears hear not.

Breeze among the breezes,
Sun from beyond the sun,
Truly our homeland’s wonder
On earth is come
With inviolate power –
And we know by the Moment’s coming
We are born for the Hour.

by Waldo Williams
translated by Tony Conran


Gnomic Stanzas by Anonymous

12th century

Mountain snow, everywhere white;
A raven’s custom is to sing;
No good comes of too much sleep.

Mountain snow, white the ravine;
By rushing wind trees are bent;
Many a couple love one another
Though they never come together.

Mountain snow, tossed by the wind;
Broad full moon, dockleaves green;
Rarely a knave’s without litigation.

Mountain snow, swift the stag;
Usual in Britain are brave chiefs;
There’s need of prudence in an exile.

Mountain snow, hunted stag;
Wind whistles above the eaves of a tower;
Heavy, O man, is sin.

Mountain snow, leaping stag;
Wind whistles above a high white wall;
Usually the calm are comely.

Mountain snow, stag in the vale;
Wind whistles above the rooftop;
There’s no hiding evil, no matter where.

Mountain snow, stag on the shore;
Old man must feel his loss of youth;
Bad eyesight puts a man in prison.

Mountain snow, stag in the ditch;
Bees are asleep and snug;
Thieves and a long night suit each other.

Mountain snow, deer are nimble;
Waves wetten the brink of the shore;
Let the skilful hide his purpose.

Mountain snow, speckled breast of a goose;
Strong are my arm and shoulder;
I hope I shall not live to a hundred.

Mountain snow, bare tops of reeds;
Bent tips of branches, fish in the deep;
Where there’s no learning, cannot be talent.

Mountain snow; red feet of hens;
Where it chatters, water’s but shallow;
Big words add to any disgrace.

Mountain snow, swift the stag;
Rarely a thing in the world concerns me;
To warn the unlucky does not save them.

Mountain snow, fleece of white;
It’s rare that a relative’s face is friendly
If you visit him too often.

Mountain snow, white house-roofs;
If tongue were to tell what the heart may know
Nobody would be neighbours.

Mountain snow, day has come;
Every sad man sick, half-naked the poor;
Every time, a fool gets hurt.

by Anonymous
(12th century)
translated by Tony Conran

Robin Ddiog a.k.a Tŷ Bach Twt (Idle Robin a.k.a. Tidy Little House) – A Traditional Welsh Folk Song

I have a neat little scrap of a house,
A scrap of a house, a scrap of a house,
I have a neat little scrap of a house,
A windy door in the morning.
Hey di ho, di hey di hey di ho
A windy door in the morning.

A fraction open the door ajar,
The door ajar, the door ajar,
A fraction open the door ajar,
You’ll see the rolling ocean.
Hey di ho, di hey di hey di ho
You’ll see the rolling ocean.

I went last night to my father’s house,
My father’s house, my father’s house,
I went last night to my father’s house
To get for free my welcome.
Hey di ho, di hey di hey di ho
To get for free my welcome.

My mam she arose to give me some food.
Dear flesh and blood, to give me some food,
My mam she arose to give me some food,
Dear flesh and blood, my own one.
Hey di ho, di hey di hey di ho
Dear flesh and blood, my own one.

My father arose, he stood on the floor,
A stick he bore, he stood on the floor,
My father arose, he stood on the floor,
A great big stick he was holding.
Hey di ho, di hey di hey di ho
A great big stick he was holding.

When I’d been trounced in a scrap of a house,
A scrap of a house, a scrap of a house,
When I’d been trounced in a scrap of a house,
A windy door in the morning.
Hey di ho, do hey di hey di ho
A windy door in the morning.

Traditional Welsh folk song
Also often titled ‘Lazy Robin‘ or Tŷ Bach Twt (‘Tidy Little House’)
translated by Tony Conran

A version sung by Meredydd Evans – known colloquially as Merêd, was a collector, editor, historian and performer of folk music of Wales. A major figure in Welsh media for over half a century, Evans has been described as influencing “almost every sphere of Welsh cultural life, from folk music and philosophy to broadcasting and language politics”

Additonal information: Below, in Welsh, is a shorter version of the traditional folk song taught as a children’s nursery rhyme and performed at circle dances. As you can imagine there are numerous variations.

The version I learned, featured below, omits the stanzas involving the mother and father fighting and replaces them with a penultimate stanza which translates, roughly, as: “And here I’ll be happy my world / happy my world, happy my world, / And here I’ll be happy my world /With the wind blowing to the door each morning.”

Apparently, the version Tony Conran translated is from North Wales? If anyone wants to leave a comment or give the translation for the mother and father stanzas you are more than welcome as I only included the Welsh version I am familiar with.

Another variant of the folk song more in line with the version Tony Conran translated (but still different).

Robin Ddiog a.k.a. Tŷ bach twt

Mae gen i dipyn o dŷ bach twt
o dŷ bach twt, o dŷ bach twt
Mae gen i dipyn o dŷ bach twt
A’r gwynt i’r drws bob bore

Hey di ho di hey di hey di ho
A’r gwynt i’r drws bob bore

Agorwch dipyn o gil y drws
o gil y drws, o gil y drws
Agorwch dipyn o gil y drws
Cewch gweld y môr a’r tonnau.

Hey di ho di hey di hey di ho
Cewch gweld y môr a’r tonnau.

Ac yma byddaf yn llon fy myd
yn llon fy myd, yn llon fy myd
Ac yma byddaf yn llon fy myd
A’r gwynt i’r drws bob bore

Hey di ho di hey di hey di ho
A’r gwynt i’r drws bob bore

A male voice choir version of the song
A female voice choir perform the song on S4C (the UK’s Welsh language broadcast channel).

Editor’s note: I don’t usually do these (well…officially… though I’ve often made comments in the ‘additional information’ sections of course) but I just wanted to wish anyone reading this on 25 December 2022 a Happy Christmas or as we say in Welsh Nadolig Llawen!

The website’s annual New Year update post will be a day early so I can keep to the Sunday upload schedule.

Soldier by Tony Conran

I am worth what others suffer for me.
The currency is pain. In the Ice Age
I first heard the jingle of it.
People against bear, against wolf, against people.

In the hosting millions of me
I am the limits of wealth.
Sooner or later, power cannot suffer enough.

Most places in the world
I am luxury goods.
The suffering I cost
Is simple as Christmas.

I am unwrapped at parades.
The Good Fairy
Takes the salute –

Rachel in Ephrath crying,
The mother of us
Weeping in Ramah
Because her children are not.

In every man, male of the species,
A soldier is wrapped.

Just as, in every baby
There is a corpse.

Just as, in every beggarman
The Redeemer of the world.

Rich man, you’ve got some pain to buy me?
Poor man, give me the pain.
Beggarman, I am you by myself,
Thief, honour me.

Rich man, it’s justice is it?
Poor man, leave it.
Beggarman, I am homeless under the night.
Thief, I am loot.

In every wardrobe there is a soldier
Mothballed in the corner.
Don’t fool yourself, friend.

We can only die once.

Right. Left. Right. Left.
Left. Left. Left.

The snuff. The desert sand.
Vultures strutting like Generals


Left. Left. Left.

by Tony Conran

Elegy for the Welsh Dead, in the Falkland Islands, 1982 by Tony Conran

Gŵyr a aeth Gatraeth oedd ffraeth eu llu.

Glasfedd eu hancwyn, a gwenwyn fu.

Y Godoggin (6th century)

Men went to Catraeth. The luxury liner
For three weeks feasted them.
They remembered easy ovations,
Our boys, splendid in courage.
For three weeks the albatross roads,
Passwords of dolphin and petrel,
Practised their obedience
Where the killer whales gathered,
Where the monotonous seas yelped.
Though they went to church with their standards
Raw death has them garnished.

Men went to Catraeth. The Malvinas
Of their destiny greeted them strangely.
Instead of affection there was coldness,
Splintered iron and the icy sea,
Mud and the wind’s malevolent satire.
They stood nonplussed in the bomb’s indictment.

Malcom Wigley of Connah’s Quay. Did his helm
Ride high in the war-line?
Did he drink enough mead for that journey?
The desolated shores of Tegeingl,
Did they pig this steel that destroyed him?
The Dee runs silent beside empty foundries.
The way of the wind and the rain is adamant.

Clifford Elley of Pontypridd. Doubtless he feasted
He went to Catraeth with a bold heart.
He was used to valleys. The shadow held him.

The staff and the fasces of tribunes betrayed him.
With the oil of our virtue we have anointed
His head, in the presence of foes.

Phillip Sweet of Cwmbach. Was he shy before girls?
He exposed himself now to the hags, the glance
Of the loose-fleshed whores, the deaths
That congregate like gulls on garbage.
His sword flashed in the wastes of nightmare.

Russell Carlisle of Rhuthun. Men of the North
Mourn Rheged’s son in the castellated vale.
His nodding charger neighed for the battle.
Uplifted hooves pawed at the lightning.
Now he lies down. Under the air he is dead.
Men went to Catraeth. Of the forty-three
Certainly Tony Jones of Carmarthen was brave.
What did it matter, steel in the heart?
Shrapnel is faithful now. His shroud is frost.
With the dawn the men went. Those forty-three,
Gentlemen all, from the streets and byways of Wales.
Dragons of Aberdare, Denbigh and Neath –
Figments of empire, whore’s honour, held them.
Forty-three at Catraeth died for our dregs.

By Tony Conran

Additional information: It is the fortieth anniversary of the Falklands War at the time this poem is being posted.

The quote before the poem is from the Medieval Welsh poem Y Godoggin. The lines translate as: “Men went to Catraeth , keen was their company. / They were fed on fresh mead, and it proved poison.”

Tony Conran (7 April 1931 – 14 January 2013) was an Anglo-Welsh poet and translator of Welsh poetry. His own poetry was mostly written in English and Modernist in style but was very much influenced by Welsh poetic tradition, Welsh culture and history. To some extent there are parallels in Conran‘s writing with that of R. S. Thomas, but Conran can also be seen in the line of Pound, Bunting and MacDairmid.

The battle of Catraeth was fought around AD 600 between a force raised by the Gododdin, a Brythonic people of the Hen Ogledd or “Old North” of Britain, and the Angles of Bernicia and Deira. It was evidently an assault by the Gododdin party on the Angle stronghold of Catraeth, perhaps Catterick, North Yorkshire. The Gododdin force was said to have consisted of warriors from all over the Hen Ogledd, and even some from as far afield as Gwynedd in North Wales and Pictland. The battle was disastrous for the Britons, who were nearly all killed. The slain warriors were commemorated in the important early poem Y Gododdin, attributed to Aneirin.

Islas Malvinas is the Spanish language name for the Falkland Islands an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf. An interesting fact is that a Patagonian form of Welsh is spoken in Patagonia due to some Welsh settlers.

Conran notes the areas of Wales the fallen come from: Connah’s Quay, Tegeingl, Pontypridd, Cwmbach, Rhuthun, Carmarthen, Aberdare, Denbigh and Neath.

Rheged sticks out amongst the above mentioned locations as it refers to one of the kingdoms of the Hen Ogledd (“Old North”), the Brittonic-speaking region of what is now Northern England and southern Scotland, during the post-Roman era and Early Middle Ages. It is recorded in several poetic and bardic sources, although its borders are not described in any of them. A recent archaeological discovery suggests that its stronghold was located in what is now Galloway in Scotland rather than, as was previously speculated, being in Cumbria. Rheged possibly extended into Lancashire and other parts of northern England. In some sources, Rheged is intimately associated with the king Urien Rheged and his family. Its inhabitants spoke Cumbric, a Brittonic dialect closely related to Old Welsh.