The grave of Hedd Wyn, under snow
So frail over lonely leys – lies the peace
Descending down this day,
Even so, snow fell slowly,
Peace held sway… it was holy.
Bedd Hedd Wyn, o dan eira
Mor frau dros yr erwau hyn – yw’r heddwch
Sydd ar heddiw’n disgyn,
Er hynny, fesul gronyn,
Roedd yno hedd… roedd yn wyn.
©Tudur Dylan Jones, reproduced with the author’s permission
English adaptation ©Susan Walton 2014
Visiting the Yr Ysgwrn, the home of Ellis Evans (Hedd Wyn), I was moved by this poem. Before Yr Ysgwrn’s re-vamp, this poem was displayed above the fireplace in the same room as his famous Black Chair. A chair is the most prestigious prize for poetry at Wales’ eisteddfodau, and the so-called Black Chair was awarded posthumously to Ellis Evans at the 1917 National Eisteddfod. Hedd Wyn was the bardic name of Ellis Evans, who had been killed at Passchendaele some weeks before the Eisteddfod. His grave is in the Artillery Wood Cemetery, Boezinge, Belgium. If you are eligible to use the BBC’s iPlayer app, you can listen to a half-hour Radio Four programme about Hedd Wyn here.
This poem appears in a volume of poetry (Canrif yn Cofio – Hedd Wyn 1917–2017, edited by Ifor ap Glyn) that collects together poems that are responses to the Hedd Wyn story. It appears under the title ‘I deulu’r Ysgwrn’ in the book.
Hedd Wyn’s name means ‘blessed peace’ (hedd = peace; [g]wyn = blessed/holy/white). Tudur Dylan Jones’ poem in the original Welsh contains a pun on the words ‘hedd’ and ‘wyn’, and so in one way the poem can be about no one else. However, to me it is about all the World War I soldiers who lie under blanketing snow, far from their homes. The photograph accompanying the poem is of my Great Uncle Jack who, like Ellis Evans, never came back.