Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Huw Menai Poetry

Huw Menai Poetry 

Hugh Owen Williams, who wrote as Huw Menai, was born in Caernarfon on 13 July 1888. Leaving school at the age of twelve, he followed his father into the mines of South Wales, finding employment at a pit in Merthyr Vale in 1906, where he soon became politically active. Although his mother tongue was Welsh, he chose to write in English for left-wing newspapers. Sacked on account of his political views, he was later given a job as a weigher, and therefore ‘a company man’ as opposed to a check-weigher who worked for the colliers. He lived for many years, unworldly, confident in his calling as a poet, often unemployed and the father of eight children, first in Gilfach Goch and then in Pen-y-graig in the Rhondda Fawr, and there he died on 28 June 1961. He published four books of verse: Through the Upcast Shaft (1920), The Passing of Guto (1929), Back in the Return (1933) and The Simple Vision (1945). Although he spent most of his life in the industrial valleys of Glamorgan, and wrote sometimes about the miner’s lot, his work lacks the power and passion of Idris Davies. His simple lyrics, often in archaic language, have rather homespun qualities; for this reason, perhaps, he was taken up in fashionable, left-wing, middle-class London circles and, for a while, enjoyed a reputation as ‘the Poet of the South Wales Coalfield’.


Stretched out full length, his eighty years too ripe
For upright posture, on the bench each day
Sleeping aloud, or tugging at his pipe,
Or one eye open on the billiard play.
A sufferer from old age too wise for tears!
And does he see, in that smoke-ridden place,
Th’ Almighty Cueist sending the different spheres
Upon their business spinning through all space?
Or does it make for a more homely scene,
With him a lusty youth in Somerset
Bringing the cattle home through fields of green?
Muttering of something that he has not met!
Muttering to himself, his later sense
Having found none worthier of his confidence!


Some cool medieval calm hath settled here
On this lone farmstead, wherein humble folk
Still speak the tongue that Owain Glyndw
 r spoke, And worship in it, too, the God they fear.
For to these perilous Ways, where rocks rise sheer,
Their kinsmen came to curse the tyrant yoke;
And here the proud invader’s heart was broke
By brave and stubborn men year after year.
Unconquerable still! Here birds but know
The Cymric speech; the very mountains brood
O’er consonants that, rugged streamlets, flow
Into deep vowel lakes… and by this wood,
Where Prince Llywelyn might himself have stood,
Forget-me-nots in wild profusion grow!

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