License: Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike
Author: Giles Watson
Love’s Tilth Hwsmonaeth Cariad 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.


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