Before memories fade of what is being described on Twitter and elsewhere as “the best Cilmeri ever” it gives me great pleasure to be the first to publish this poem by a Welshman who has been away from us for far too long. An indication of his whereabouts may be gleaned from knowing that in recent years he has, among other things, spent time translating classical Chinese poetry.
Not far from the Banks of Irfon
You see, it must have been somewhere,
in this sloping field or that;
where Dafis walked his dog today,
whose snout went snuffling
in a certain broom-choked patch;
where lovers lay last summer in the flattened sun-dried grass,
or lay, for that matter, in that self-same spot
a hundred or so years ago;
or there upon the hillside where the fat, incurious sheep
chew now upon the cud.
Or beneath that rooted blackthorn, succoured
by the good black soil that sucked the seeping blood.
But no-one knows the exact place, now,
where the broad-axe bit into close-knit mail,
where the long sword’s steel struck at the flesh
and the whetted blades hewed thick and fast –
and those alien hands tore the cross away
from round his neck.
And now the needle thrusts against the sky
in a chosen place that’s plain to see,
in the still, the cold December air, where the chill is felt
as it might have been those seven hundred years ago.
And banners flap yet in a rising breeze as they did in that age gone by –
and songs are sung and verses read
for the one who fell, nearby, somewhere,
– but no-one knows exactly where –
in whose living name fresh tribute is paid
from year to passing year, from one year to the next.
Dafydd Hughes Lewis