Prose & Poetry - Hedd Wyn

Hedd Wyn Hedd Wyn (1887-1917), born Ellis Humphrey Evans, was a sheep farmer turned poet-soldier who was killed during the First World War.

Evans - who chose Hedd Wyn ('white peace') as his pen name - was born in Penlan, Trawsfynydd the eldest of eleven children, and lived for much of his life at Yr Ysgwrn, a hill farm east of Trawsfynydd.

He began writing Welsh-language poetry at an early age; when aged 24 he was awarded a chair at Bala; others followed at Llanuwchllyn, Pwllheli and Pontardawe (the latter in 1915 with the First World War underway).

Wynn sat out the war for three years as a sheep farmer until he was called up for military service in 1917.  Following a spell of training in Liverpool Private Evans was despatched for active service in Flanders and found himself stationed with his regiment at the notorious Pilckem Ridge immediately prior to the opening of the Passchendaele offensive (3rd Ypres).

It was at Pilckem Ridge that Wyn was killed during fighting in August 1917.  Buried initially on the battlefield (out of necessity) his body was subsequently moved to Artillery Wood cemetery following the armistice.

September that year brought a posthumous award of the chair at the National Eisteddfod of Wales for his verse poem Yr Arwr ('The Hero').  Wyn had written the poem while serving in Flanders and completed it shortly before his death under the nom-de-plume of 'fleur-de-lis'.  The chair itself was draped in black in memorial of Wyn following the announcement of his win and revelation of the author's actual identity.

A Welsh-language film based on Wyn's life was produced in 1992, Hedd Wynn.

Y Blotyn Du
Nid oes gennym hawl ar y ser,
Na'r lleuad hiraethus chwaith,
Na'r cwmwl o aur a ymylch
Yng nghanol y glesni maith.
Nid oes gennym hawl ar ddim byd,
Ond ar yr hen ddaear wyw;
A honno sy'n anhrefn i gyd
Yng nghanol gogoniant Duw

(English translation below by Jim Finnis)

The Black Spot
We have no right to the stars,
Nor the homesick moon,
Nor the clouds edged with gold
In the centre of the long blueness.

We have no right to anything
But the old and withered earth
That is all in chaos
At the centre of God's glory.

The German word "U-Boat" was derived from "Unterseeboot" (undersea boat).

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Prose & Poetry