The School Bag

The Seagull

Siōn Phylip
Fair gull on the water’s bank,
Bright-plumed breast, well-provided,
Hawk does not seize or pursue,
Water drown, nor man own you.
Nun feasting on the ocean,
Green sea’s corners’ coarse-voiced girl,
Thrusting wide through the lake’s neck;
And then shaking a herring,
Salt water’s clear white sunlight,
You’re the banner of the shore,
The blessed godchild are you,
Below the bank, of Neptune:
A sorrow for you, the change
Of your life,, cold your christening,
Brave white bird in rough waters,
Once a girl in a man’s arms.

Halcyon, fair slim-browed maiden,
You were called in your kind land,
And after your man, good cause,
To the waves then you ventured,
And to the wild strait’s seagull
You were changed, weak-footed bird.
You live, quick fish-feeding girl,
Below the slope and billows,
And the same cry for your mate
You screech loudly till doomsday.

Was there ever on the sea
A more submissive swimmer?
Hear my cry, wise and white-cloaked,
The hurt of the bare sea’s bard:
My breast is pained with passion,
Pining for a love of a girl.
I have begged from my boyhood
That she’d make one tryst with me,
And the tryst was for today:
Great was grief, it was wasted.
Swim, forget not my complaint,
To the dear maiden’s region;
Fly to the shore, brave brightness,
And say where I was held fast
By the mouth, no gentle wave,
Of rough Bermo, cold foaming,
In all moods a sorry spot,
A cold black sea for sailing.
I rose, I traveled as day was
Breaking towards that dear bright face.
Dawn came on a thorny seastrand,
A cold day from the south-east.
A foul wind winnowed gravel,
Stripping stones, the whirlwind’s nest.
The signs grew darker with dawn,
Twrch Trwydd drenching the beaches.
Inky was the wind’s gullet
Where the western wind draws breath.

Harsh is the shore in conflict
If the western inlet’s rough:
The sea spews, turning rocks green,
From the east spews fresh water.
Deep heaves from the ocean-bed,
In pain the pale moon’s swooning.
The green pond is heaved abroad,
A snake’s heave, sick from surfeit.
Sad heave where I saw tide ebb,
Rain’s drivel that came pouring,
Cold black bed between two slopes,
Salt-filled briny sea-water.
Furnace dregs, draff of hell-spit,
Mouth sucking drops from the stars,
A winter night’s greedy mouth,
Greed on the face of night-time,
Crock-shaped wet-edged enclosure,
A ban between bard and girl,
Foul hollow gap, raging pit,
Foggy land’s filthy cranny,
Cromlech of every sickness,
Narrow pit of the world’s plagues.
The pit was the sea-pool’s haunt,
High it leaped, pool of prickles.
As high as the shelf it climbs
Spew of the storm-path’s anguish.
It never ebbs, will not turn:
I could not cross the current.
Three waters could flow eastwards,
Three oceans, these are the ones:
The Euxin, where rain wets us,
The Adriatic, black look,
The flood that runs to Rhuddallt,
Ancient Noah’s flood turned salt.
The water-gate at Bermo,
Tide and shelf, may it turn land!

Welsh - late 16th/early17th century - translated by Joseph P. Clancy