Other Delights

Men of Harlech     Beams of Light     Oak Creek Home

Men of Harlech

As the two languages have, in many ways, fundamental differences, Welsh to English translation present difficult choices to the translator, especially of poetry and lyrics.

Do you keep the naws (mood) and sacrifice the narrative detail, sacrifice the naws and keep to the detail, look for a verbal compromise, invent something completely different and so on. Then there's the technical issues: form, rhyme, alliteration, stress, metaphor, idiom, etc.

John Ceiriog HughesThe reason I mention this is that for some time I've been disappointed by the numerous translations and approximations of John Ceiriog Hughes' Rhyfelgyrch Gwyr Harlech (Men of Harlech). Not that they don't work on their own merits, but that they seem distant from the glorious Welsh of Ceiriog.

As a result, what follows is my own attempt at the impossible,;a translation that is close in naws and faithful to the detail. If you feel the same as me and like my efforts, please feel free to use the translation at your gatherings.

Early published version of the melody.

An early example of the melody, very similar to modern day versions. John Ceiriog Hughs (known simply as Ceiriog) would compose the most famous lyrics, as translated below.

Men of Harlech - English Welsh side-by-side

           Listen to a musical sketch of my new translation of Rhyfelgyrch Gwyr Harlech.        

Beams of Light

AmeriCymru - A Short Interview With John Good
AmeriCymru:  Bridges, from which Beams of Light is taken, is a work in progress. When can we expect to hear more? Will there be a CD?

John: I'm hoping to add another installment before Nadolig/Christmas. but I'm trying to keep the energy up without rushing. I'm looking at adding "moving" graphics for a YouTube kind of job, possibly ending up as a multimedia CD.

AmeriCymru:  I know many of our members will be keen to hear this work performed at the WCE (West Coast Eiisteddfod). Will it be in your repertoire?

John: Some parts but other similar and dissimilar things (got to keep you and me on our toes). Anyway, Welsh culture of the more traditional kind is extremely broad-based and routinely neglected. I try to adjust that wherever I go. Everything is on the table.

AmeriCymru:  How would you describe Beams of Light/Bridges? Is it perhaps a song cycle or a series of connected poems set to music? Does it have an overall theme?

John: I think it's a first installment of a 20 year scrapbook of song, verse, instrumental with story and legend to be added in future linked episodes ...sort of an alphabet 'cawl' with musical croutons. The theme is a loose narrative created by longtime traveling, learning, laughing, forgetting, regretting and loving.

AmeriCymru:  Is it possible to detect many influences at work in
Beams of Light. Has the writing been influenced by any one particular poet/songwriter would you say?

John: Many: Viv Stanshall, both Dylans, rock salmon and 6, Gareth Edwards, Strongbow, Owain Glyndwr, choc ices, Port Talbot steel

AmeriCymru:  Any final message for our readers?

John: Y mae Cymru ar fin o adennill ei hunan hyder. Byddwch yn falch.
Wales is on the point of regaining her self confidence. Be proud.

Listen to a performance.

And I will build bridges, night and day;
Lay strong beams of light.
And I will read from the book of dreams;
Walk Wisdom's well traveled causeway.

Groceries put away, paper bags discarded,
the daylong dreamer gratefully sleeps.

From abstract patterns traced on fitful sheets
a macabre-black cat leaps from its dream,
clears a blouse caressing a chair,
scattered skirt, shoes, tap-dancing to the moon;     lands, spills a perfectly still glass of wine
left standing overnight on piano's polished lid.

Silent, red, slow, Beaujolais flows
past a rosewood reflected Waterford vase;
seeps over sheet music's opened page:
five easy pieces anyone can play!

Even "Five Easy Pieces" requires concentration
and peace, though simple, is a practiced thing.

John playing his wooden flute


                                    To be continued...

Oak Creek Home (Cartref Nant Y Dderwin) score

Bob Schaffner was father-in-law and friend to me. Twice a year the whole family, Maryanne, Kelly, Scott, Kevin, Joyce, Rich, nephews, nieces and significant others would meet in Sedona, along Oak Creek and spend a week amongst the quiet glory of the red rocks, sleeping within sound of that magical flowing stream. We would go trout fishing, hiking along the creek for hours on end, bird book in the back pocket, binoculars in the back pack and even if we came back empty-handed, the beer and barbeque and company were catch enough. It was Bob's favorite place in the world, and when he passed, we all gathered again and scattered his ashes in the welcoming stream. By now he is appropriately inseparable from this deep blue-green planet.

Cartref Nant y Dderwen / Oak Creek Home, written soon after his passing, is my attempt to recapture those magical and happy times, and say thank you to the man who welcomed me as a son and friend and taught me so much . . .

John Good

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