The Man on the Horizon

… A sacrifice is vital;
And for that, Wales, keep looking to
The man on the horizon.

Not all that’s fragile is feeble,
As man exists, not every mote is dust.
And for this, Wales, behold
The man on the horizon;
Incisive his mind,
Infinite his idiot faith.
 
On his face the print of a dream,
In his voice a holy depth.
But for his learning and modest coming
He would be ignored,
Like that earlier Supreme Being
Who was crucified for them.
 
He bravely loves a land
And a people cast aside.
He shaped his heart to them
And a cell was their thanks.
For a genuine Welsh act
Persecution came, not praise.
 
Indifferent Wales, the day will come
When you will see your shame.
A parliament’s not won with words
A sacrifice is vital;
And for that, Wales, keep looking to
The man on the horizon.
 
‘Y Gŵr Sydd ar y Gorwel’ © Gerallt Lloyd Owen 1972 from Cerddi’r Cywilydd, Gwasg Gwynedd; English adaptation © Susan Walton 2011, published online with the permission of Gerallt Lloyd Owen
 
Translating ‘Y Gŵr Sydd ar y Gorwel’ by Gerallt Lloyd Owen was sparked by a conversation about the arrest of a pub landlord in a village near mine for brandishing a gun after he had told customers to order their drinks in English, not Welsh.
 
The following day I was taken aback to hear that a young, Welsh (and Welsh-speaking) acquaintance had declared that locals shouldn’t get so het-up about the use of Welsh. It was apparent that he was too young to be aware of the civil-rights struggles of the 60s and 70s that resulted in the Wales of today, where Welsh has an equal legal status with English. If a young man in one of the Welshest parts of Wales is blissfully ignorant of the battles others had fought for rights he enjoys, how many other, non-Welsh speakers are?
 
Gerallt Lloyd Owen died in 2014. His obituary in the
Telegraph is here, and in the Independent here.

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