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.