Watching the BBC programme My Life in Verse I was introduced to the following poem by the fourteenth century poet Dafydd ap Gwilym. It struck me because of its very contemporary expression of feeling and because Llanbadarn church is only a few minutes walk from where we're living. Tomorrow Anthea and I will be visiting Strata Florida Abbey where, according to tradition, Dafydd ap Gwilym is buried.
The Girls of Llanbadarn
I am bent with wrath,
a plague upon all the women of this parish!
for I've never had (cruel, oppressive longing)
a single one of them,
neither a virgin (a pleasant desire)
nor a little girl nor hag nor wife.
What hindrance, what wickedness,
what failing prevents them from wanting me?
What harm could it do to a fine–browed maiden
to have me in a dark, dense wood?
It would not be shameful for her
to see me in a bed of leaves.
There was never a time when I did not love —
never was any charm so persistent —
even more than men of Garwy's ilk,
one or two in a single day,
and yet I've come no closer to winning one of these
than if she'd been my foe.
There was never a Sunday in Llanbadarn church
(and others will condemn it)
that my face was not turned towards the splendid girl
and my nape towards the resplendent, holy Lord.
And after I'd been staring long
over my feathers across my fellow parishioners,
the sweet radiant girl would hiss
to her campanion, so wise, so fair:
'He has an adulterous look —
his eyes are adept at disguising his wickedness —
that pallid lad with the face of a coquette
and his sister's hair upon his head.'
'Is that what he has in mind?'
says the other girl by her side,
'While the world endures he'll get no response,
to hell with him, the imbecile!'
I was stunned by the bright girl's curse,
meagre payment for my stupefied love.
I might have to renounce
this way of life, terrifying dreams.
Indeed, I'd better become
a hermit, a calling fit for scoundrels.
Through constant staring (a sure lesson)
over my shoulder (a pitiful sight),
it has befallen me, who loves the power of verse,
to become wry–necked without a mate.