HYMN


At the top of Henlys Lane where it bends
to Llanfaes is an oak tree and a bench
with a view across pastoral fields
to the castle and, beyond the water,
Snowdonia. On this autumn’s first day –
here as warm and sunny as summer
but with a softer, fading light – we sit and talk
of our frequent, fifty year pilgrimage
to this coast and its sublime vistas.

Suddenly, we see what appears to be
smoke drifting up Moel Wnion’s mauve walls.
Binoculars and a setting sun reveal
a mountainous vein, a gash of quartz.
‘Dafydd y Garreg Wen, David of the White
Rock,’ I say – and you hum the harper’s
haunting air and then, encouraged, sing softly:
‘David, the bard, on his bed of death lies.
Pale are his features and dim are his eyes.’

And you talk, as you have before, of learning
the song from your grandma, a free spirit.
And I think how fortunate I am
being sung to gently as the acorns
patter about us, scattering like
the seeds they are, and the white rock becomes
a deep, purple shadow.

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by Alan Horne - October 30th, 2015 at 21:33

    Over a few readings I found that this was transmuted from a charming pastorale into a beautiful meditation on death. The sequence of images is very unusual: the lane, the quartz vein, the song being sung, the acorns and the quartz now in shadow. I especially liked the acorns, with the mix of an acoustic and a tactile experience, a very unsentimental image of life continuing. It was also good to learn about Dafydd y Garreg Wen, both the song and the man.

  2. #2 by Hugh Powell - November 3rd, 2015 at 22:15

    I see the shadow of death that Alan points to, but the presence adds to the depth of the real theme, which is continuity with the past, the richness of life that deepens as age and experience adds to its layers.

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