Gelli Fach

Gelli Fach

I'm a cell, I'm fragmented, I change my form;
I'm a repository of song, I'm a dynamic state.
I love a wooded slope and a snug shelter,
and a creative poet who doesn't buy his advancement.

Wyf kell, wyf dellt, wyf datweirllet;
wyf llogell kerd, wyf lle ynnyet.
Karaf-y gorwyd a goreil clyt,
a bard a bryt ny pryn y ret.

From: Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, edited and translated by Marged Haycock

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Celebrating May - with Dafydd ap Gwilym

Cytisus scoparius photo MPF Newcastle, UK

May 1st, Calan Mai.

But it's cold and gloomy here in West Wales and the may blossom is not yet out. I think it might be some time… 
Here are some lines of an Ode, by the 14th  century Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym  (although I believe it has also been attributed to the 15th century poet Robin Ddu in some of the manuscripts). It contrasts January and May, winter and summer, but could be mistaken for a description of our current weather.

Urging on tides and colds
and in the brooks a brown flood;
a turmoil fills the rivers,
day is angered and offended,
and the heavy, chilly sky
with its hue obscures the moon…

When May comes in its green livery
with ordination for the fresh leaves
then green grows along the threads
of the bush for him who owns it.
Fair is the tree and lively,
from whose branches grow thick gold;
God gave, o faultless structure,
a shower of gold to its stalks.
Let my girl rejoice that a green grove
makes a paradise for a poet.
We love the loveliest flowers,
but these boughs are summer’s frost.

Ac annog llanw ac annwyd
ac mewn naint llifeiriaint llwyd
a llawn son mewn afonydd
a llidiaw a digiaw dydd
ac wybren drymled ledoer
a’i lliw yn gorchuddiaw’r lloer…

Pan ddel Mai a’i lifrai las
ar irddail i roi’r urddas
aur a dyf ar edafedd
ar y llwyn er mwyn a’i medd.
Teg yw’r pren a gwyrennig
y tyf yr aur tew o’r frig.
Duw a roes, difai yw’r ail,
aur gawod ar y gwiail.
Bid llawen gwen bod llwyn gwydd
o baradwys i brydydd.
Blodau gorau a garwn;
barrug haf ydyw’r brig hwn.

(from Dafydd ap Gwilym a’i Gyfoeswyr, by T. Roberts with Sir Ifor Williams, Bangor, 1914, p 91 and 79. English translation by Gwyn Williams.)

The bush which is celebrated here is of course the broom (Cytisus scoparius) and I’m happy to say that in my garden there is a shower of gold on its stalks and the air is rich with its honey scent. A paradise for a poet indeed.


  1. A poem dedicated to May...what a lovely idea :-)

  2. I love Dafydd ap Gwilym! Happy may day Hilaire!

  3. May is my favourite month, OE, (although it is a strange one this year, cold and gloomy)so I think it deserves a whole book!

    Happy month of May (rather belatedly) Elizabeth! I hope the weather is better in Scotland.