The School Bag

The Skull

Llewelyn Goch Ap Meurig Hen
THE BARD: Perfect skull, whom none will praise,
                      Pock-marked, withered-up headpiece,
                      Secret shame, foe of the fair
                      Wanton whose pale skin withered,
                      No gold does your cheeks homage,
                      Grave of sorry, mortal flesh.
                      Who placed you, impolitely,
                       Setting you to mock at me,
                      Out of vile, spiteful hatred,
                      On the wall there, dreary wretch?
THE SKULL: There’s no nose, only ruins.
                        There is neither lip nor tooth,
                        There’s no ear left, foul fracas,
                        There’s no brow nor brilliant glance,
                        There’s not an eye is left me,
                        And not a breath in my mouth.
                        Naught remains of eyes but dust
                        And pits brimful of blackness,
                        No hair, there is no mantle,
                        No skin to cover my face.
THE BARD: Much mortified is our land,
                      Cold sight, to look upon you.
                      Make, to conceal your forehead,
                      Your way to your bed of clay.
                      Allow, chilling all the rest,
                      Me my clever cywdyddau.
THE SKULL: I have, I will not go back,
                        Lain long in a field’s belly,
                        In fear, hiding my favour,
                        With the worms crowding me close.
                        I’ll keep, though I may not drink,
                        My place, warning my parish.
                        From my niche I preach better
                        Than Saint Austin, or as well;
                        There’s no man skilled at hoodwinks
                        May look upon me and laugh;
                        Grief of man, who will ask me,
                        Face of pain, to give him birth?
                        Clean contrary to feasting,
                        The sight of my naked skull,
                        Where once could be seen like silk
                        Auburn hair in small ringlets,
                        A glowing, soft, smooth forehead,
                        A falcon’s eye and fair brows,
                        Lips skilled in conversation,
                        A fair, sweet, neatly shaped nose,
                        Pretty gums’ honeyed language,
                        Clever courtly tongue and teeth,
                        Having on the lovely earth
                        A girl’s faith in great passion,
                        A tryst among young birches,
                        O Jesus Christ, and a kiss.
                        For an earthly tare, futile,
                        By God, how great is man’s pride,
                        To build a sinful burden,
                        A strange place for vanity.
                        Busy sprout, no proud passage,
                        Ponder your name, be not proud.

Welsh - 14th century - translated by Joseph P. Clancy