Llywelyn’s Breath

For the Welsh original, please click here.


(at the Llanelwedd National Eisteddfod)


The border is near,
its rugged soil continuing
to sear its history on the face
of our language's acres, our no man's land.


Our language is Llywelyn's
faint breath on these stones,
challenging others to utter it,
and stir over its existence.


I catch it, imagine it
as a leaden rain, a featherbed,
our soul, our secret,
blush of life, a little darling:


a moment, a messenger, a song,
a feint, a swooping owl,
the cry of an embrace,
a fright, raindrops, a dead


lock, a remembered knot,
an hour after dawn on a beach,
the legend of our conception,
a fire draught, a full house:


a barrel, a fulfilling,
the smell of a language, a country song,
an oath on a stone, a cry
echoing through the burial mounds:


the echo of the legends' magic,
a continuation, a fragile life,
a price, a choice, an argument,
we ourselves, our breath . . .


Llywelyn's faint breath
still alive for us here,
in Builth, where our exiled leader
sought entrance, knocked and knocked:


and the reply is still thrilling,
cascading on the local hills,
charging and challenging, charging torrents
of protest and blood on the wind.


The dawn rents the borderland,
and the summer comes strongly in its wake:
our language is in these stones,
in Llywelyn's last place.


Builth Wells
July 1993