The School Bag

The Shadow

Dafydd Ap Gwilym 

Yesterday under fine leaves
I stayed for her, my Helen,
Under a green birch mantle
Safe from the rain, foolish lad.
Then I saw a sort of shape
Standing there, all distorted.
It drew back where it stood and
Faced me, like a friendly man,
And I blessed myself and begged
The saints to ward off evil.

‘Tell me, and end your silence,
If you’re a man, who you are.’

‘I am, desist from questions,
The strange shadow of yourself.
Be still, for your benefit,
That I may speak my message.
I am come, a good custom,
Standing naked by your side,
To reveal, gem of complaints,
What you are, by enchantment.’

‘O no, misshapen creature,
I’m not like that, goblin form.
The shape of a hunchbacked goat,
You resemble, queer picture,
More a strange apparition
Than the true form of a man.
Bickering herd in motley,
Legs of a hag on black stilts,
Shepherd of grimy goblins,
Bogey like a bald-pate monk,
Herdsman playing at griors,
Heron feeding in the reeds,
Crane stretching his wings full spread,
Goblin walls, by the cornfield,
A dimwitted palmer’s face,
A ragged man’s black brother,
Form of a coarsely clad corpse,
Where are you from, old yardpost?’

‘For days, should I accuse you,
I’d stay, what I know’s your bane.’

‘What fault of mine do you know,
Other, neck of a pitcher,
Than what all men of judgment
Now know? Devil’s shit to you!
I’ve not disowned my homeland,
Nor struck, I know, a foul blow.
Nor slung a stone at the hens,
Nor said boo to the babies.
I do not twist my talent,
I’ve not raped a stranger’s wife.’

‘By my faith, should I tell to
Those who know what I know,
Before the indictment’s end,
Faith, you’d be on the gallows.’

‘Take care, your snare is cruel,
Not to reveal what you know,
No more, while mine’s the secret,
Then lips sewn fast with a stitch.’

14th century Welsh - translated by Joseph P. Clancy