Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Home of a Hero

Peter was busy guiding an American Journalist called Randy Johnson last week, and he took to opportunity to show him one of our cultural landmarks. Yr Ysgwrn, near Trawsfynydd, was the home of Ellis Humphrey Evans, better known by his bardic name Hedd Wyn, one of Wales' most celebrated poets of the 20th Century.

Evans was born on the 13th January 1887, and became the eldest of eleven children. Later that spring, the family moved to an isolated hill farm called Yr Ysgwrn near Trawsfynydd.

After leaving school at 14, Evans became a shepherd on his father's farm, but he always showed a natural gift for poetry, taking part in eisteddfodau.

The outbreak of the first world war had a profound effect on Ellis. His experiences fighting in the trenches inspired some of his most famous poems:

His poem, Rhyfel ("War"), remains one of his most frequently quoted works.
Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O'i ol mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.
Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae swn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A'i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.
Mae'r hen delynau genid gynt,
Ynghrog ar gangau'r helyg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A'u gwaed yn gymysg efo'r glaw
Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God
Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,
Now wields the sceptre and the rod?
Man raised his sword, once God had gone,
To slay his brother, and the roar
Of battlefields now casts upon
Our homes the shadow of the war.
The harps to which we sang are hung,
On willow boughs, and their refrain
Drowned by the anguish of the young
Whose blood is mingled with the rain.

During March 1917, Hedd Wynn was granted leave to work on the family farm. During his spare time he worked on what came to be regarded as his masterpiece; Yr Arwr, or The Hero. Because the harvest was delayed, he stayed longer than was permitted. He had just finished his Yr Arwr when the military police came to fetch him, so his greatest work was left on the kitchen table. He wrote out another copy from memory on the train back to the front.

Sadly Hedd Wyn was killed shortly afterwards at the the battle of Passchendaele on the 31st of July 1917. However he posthumously won the prestigious Chair of the Bard at the National Eisteddfod during the following September. The chair was draped with a black cloth as a mark of respect, and became known as the Black Chair.

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