The School Bag

The Porpoise

Tomos Prys
Fair nimble keen-edged porpoise
Leaping lovely waves at will,
Seacalf, brow strangely shaded,
Smooth the way, strange-sounding lad.
Glad you are to be noticed,
Gay on wavecrests near the shore,
A fierce-looking cold-framed head,
Bear’s face in frigid currents.
He skips, he shakes like ague,
And then he waggles away,
Black mushroom, wrestles the sea,
Staring at it and snorting,
You are ploughing the breaking
Crests of the waves of the sea;
You split the salty ocean,
Are in the heart of the wave,
Daring shadow, swift and clean,
Skull of the sea, strand’s pillion.
He hoes waves, water viper,
His looks give the heart a fright.
You’re white-bellied, quite gentle,
Rover of the captive flood.
Boar of the brine, deed of daring,
He roams the sea, long bright trail.
Summers, when weather changes,
You come rocking before storms,
Fierce boar, wild infernal churn,
On wild tides cross and greedy.
Lance with gold-crested breastplate,
Fish in a closely-clasped coat,
Sea’s burden, tress on bosom,
He slides, holds on a wave’s slope.
Sea’s saddle, take your bearing,
Find a path to the fierce brine,
Choose a fathom, go for me,
Steady memory’s envoy.
Take a trip, from Menai’s bank,
On a sure course for Lisbon,
And then swim in a moment’
To Spain’s border, the world’s breast.
Search along the water’s edge,
Great his fame, for a warrior,
Prys Gruffudd (are hearts not sad?),
Trust’s pearl, heart pure and faithful,
Honour of Penrhyn, sound branch,
Gentle lord, who more manly?
It’s six years, O how weary,
Since he went abroad by ship
To seas beyond the inlet,
Cross the bar, across the world.
Is it not high time he left
The salt water, kind hero,
And came, relief of worry,
To his court from that foul place,
And lingered where he’s longed for,
And made all his people glad?

When you see him, fine labour,
Very bold aboard his ship,
Call to him, bright his harness,
The petition that you bring,
And greet him, fruitful task,
With much song from his comrade,
Sweetly, a man who once went
Sailing on the same voyage
Till he, cheerful admission,
Purchased wisdom when he waned:
Then truly he discarded
The ocean and all its ways,
Give a groan, and speak to him,
Hope he will change this venture
And abandon the sea at once
To other men hereafter.
Hard to win spoils at twilight
Waiting upon the cold sea,
And, from seafaring, easy
Are evil and ill repute.
Well may a brisk shore-bred man
Range over world and ocean
To win, though clamped by coldness,
A true knowledge of the world,
But it’s not good or godly
To follow this path for long.

Show, bitter seed that ripened,
His household’s unsated hearts.
If wind blow, sad is the face,
A high gale on the hillside,
The world seems mad and twisted,
There’s praying and dreadful wails
For fear the wind, deep trouble,
Endanger his comely head.
Many a one is known to
Lament that he’s not ashore,
Losing sleep, their hearts broken,
I hear much talk, from their dreams.
Wastrels go off seafaring,
Men with not a foot of land:
Let him come, now grown mellow,
Out of their midst back to us.
Let him come home, hard gazing,
Lead his men to their fair land.

Of Grace, azure ship, captain,
A captain whose hands are clean,
God with grace will reward him,
The grace to part with the sea.  

early 17th century Welsh - translated by Joseph P. Clancy