License: Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike Author: Giles Watson
I loved, and bore the labour,
And am, twice over, lover.
I fan love like an ember,
And lamely I remember
How love, like a worm, will filch
Hope, and channer through the flesh.
There is a germination
In my heart – a strong motion
Of growing: a shoot groping
From a sown seed burst open.
My labour, ever honest:
To till love until harvest.
Care and woe dogged winter tilth
When ice crystals crept in stealth
Destroying, and January
Brought no joyful husbandry:
I mulched my love, ploughed furrows
For Morfudd, ignored her frowns.
Sharp were the ploughshares which scored
Through my breast and left it scarred
To the heart, and the coulter
Rent my ribs with a clatter,
Scored a wound, sowed my portion
Of love, harrowed my passion.
I waited three months, patient
Until Spring’s warmth grew potent
And love took root. It was stout
Toil to fence it all about,
Protect it from slugs. I strove
Night and day – kept love alive.
Nor was I lazy in May,
But guarded wealth, crops made
Safe with a hedge well-planted,
The green twigs plashed and plaited
Together. While her love thrust
Its stem through my riven breast
I did not flinch, but held fast,
Fixed my eyes upon the feast
Of love to come; no shirking:
I whet my steel for reaping.
Grim loss! Great storms came and felled
Every wheat-stalk in the field.
From the south, a veering wind
Seared through my heart, cleft a wound,
And in my wind-battered face,
The stars of love, my eyes, fierce
With weeping, bore heaviest
The rheum of tearful harvest,
And Morfudd’s form, refracted
In their wet flood, was fractured
And swam, occluded by torrents
And eyelids red with torment,
The field awash with flowing
Water, my fond heart failing.
The harvest of my heart is lost:
Not a single sheaf is left.
Wind’s fury, autumn’s rabble
Leaves ravaged fields of stubble,
And fast rain flows from the high
Cheeks of the eastern sky:
Tears for her of Eigr’s hue –
My crop all spoiled, and I rue
The day I planted. Alas,
Love brings only torment, loss:
I sowed, yet I failed to reap.
Ruin came, found me asleep.
I am pledged to blight and dearth,
For now love must starve to death.
Poem by Dafydd ap Gwilym, paraphrased by Giles Watson, 2012.
This poem provides quite compelling evidence that Dafydd was familiar with the 13th Century French Roman de la Rose
, which also made comparison between the ill-fortunes of unrequited love and the farmer’s struggle to sustain a crop until harvest. Indeed, it is known for certain that this text was available in Wales in Dafydd’s time, for a copy of it is listed as one of the belongings of an executed rebel, Llywelyn Bren, in 1317. (See Rachel Bromwich, ‘Tradition and Innovation in the Poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym’, in Aspects of the Poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym
, Cardiff, 1986, pp. 73-75.) However, it is also likely that the poem contains a strong autobiographical element, and that the “storm” represents Morfudd’s marriage to the churlish Bwa Bach, who is later to be characterised by Dafydd as Eiddig, the Jealous One. It was not a bountiful harvest for Morfudd either; there is evidence in others of Dafydd's poems that she was abused by her husband.