Louis Esterhuizen. Om ‘n leë stoel 95 jaar lank te gedenk

Dat die Walliesers ‘n besonderse verering vir hul digters het, is ‘n bekende feit. Daarom dat die ietwat ongewone verering van een van hul ontslape digters, Ellis Humphreys Evans (foto), wat allerweë bekend was die digter Hedd Wyn, my aandag getrek het. Volgens die berig op New York Times se webblad is die wen van Die Stoel tydens Wallis se jaarlikse Nasionale Eisteddfod die hoogste eerbetoon waarna ‘n Walliese digter kan strewe. Ook is Die Stoel nog nooit posthuum toegeken nie; met die enkele uitsondering van Hedd Wyn in 1917.

In dié betrokke jaar het die beoordelaars eenparig ten gunste van Hedd Wyn besluit vir sy ode genaamd “Yr Arwr” (Die held). Hierdie gedig is glo deur Percy Bysshe Shelley se gedig “Prometheus Unbound” geïnspireer en is deur Alan Llwyd, eweneens digter en tweemalige wenner van Die Stoel, beskryf as “a rich, complex, allegorical poem,” wat na sy mening “possibly the most ambitious of any Eisteddfod winner of the 20th century” is.

Hedd Wyn

Hedd Wyn

Nietemin, die organiseerders was nie bewus daarvan dat Evans in die ouderdom van 30 jaar op 31 Julie te Pilkem Ridge gedurende die slag van Passchendaele in Suid-Frankryk gesneuwel het nie: “At the award ceremony the archdruid rose to summon the poet, in the traditional fashion, to come to take the chair, calling him three times to make himself known. But it then had to be revealed, to the consternation of the gathering, which included the prime minister, David Lloyd George, that Hedd Wyn had fallen while fighting with the Royal Welch Fusiliers “somewhere in France.” The empty chair was draped with a black shroud, and the festival of that year has ever since been called Eisteddfod y Gadair Ddu (The Eisteddfod of the Black Chair). “

Na afloop van die verigtinge is die stoel na Evans se plaas Yr Ysgwrn, buite die heuweldorpie Trawsfynydd in die Prysor-vallei vervoer. Sedertdien was dié kliphuis, wat glo uit die 16de eeu dateer, “a place of pilgrimage, where visitors were warmly received by the poet’s family.”

Gerald Williams, die digter se neef, het die huis sedert 1933 bewoon en alles binne sy vermoë gedoen om Evans se nalatenskap en reputasie in stand te hou: “Not the least remarkable aspect of Yr Ysgwrn is that the cottage interiors remain as they were in 1917, including the kitchen, where Hedd Wyn wrote ‘The Hero’ and many of his other poems on the table by the iron stove.”

Gerald Williams by Hedd Wyn se stoel

Gerald Williams by Hedd Wyn se stoel

Hierdie jare van selflose diens het hy gelewer na aanleiding van ‘n belofte wat hy aan sy ouma gemaak het: “”My grandmother was well into her sixties by then and had already brought up a large family of her own,” het hy aan die beriggewer gesê. “I have very early memories of visitors coming to the house and my grandmother talking to them about Hedd Wyn. I promised my grandmother always to keep the door open for people who came here and it seemed natural to keep the house as it was when my uncle was alive and writing his poetry here.”

Maar nou is Gerald Williams reeds in sy 80s en nie meer in staat om na die nagedagtenis van Wallis se vroeëgestowe digter om te sien nie … Die oplossing? Naamlik dat die naasliggende reservaat, die Snowdonia National Park, die kliphuis ten volle gaan restoureer en dit ten volle beskikbaar vir besoekers en aanverwante pelgrims gaan stel; selfs mnr. Williams sal toegelaat word om aan te bly vir so lank as wat hy wil.

Met die leë, swart stoel as vernaamste meubelstuk in die huis.

Die artikel – en onderhoud – is uitgebreid; met heelwat kommentaar oor die Walliese digkuns en Hedd Wyn se lewe en werk. Gaan lees dit gerus indien dié onderwerp jou interesseer.

Vir jou leesplesier plaas ek twee gedigte hieronder. Die eerste is een van Hedd Wyn se bekende gedigte oor die Eerste Wêreldoorlog. Die tweede is ‘n elegie wat deur R. Williams Parry geskryf is na aanleiding van die digter se dood. Beide is uit Wallies na Engels vertaal deur Louis Flint Ceci . (Terloops, die slotreël in Parry se elegie is ‘n inspeling op Hedd Wyn se naam, wat direk vertaal ‘Blessed Peace’ beteken.)

***

Rhyfel (War)

Alas, this is an age so mean
  That everyman is made a Lord,
  For all authority's absurd
When God himself fades from the scene.
 
As quick as God is shown the door
  Out come the cannons and the sword:
  Hate on hate on brother poured
And scored the deepest on the poor.
 
The harps that once could help our pain
  Hang silent, to the willows pinned.
  The cry of battle fills the wind
And blood of lads--it falls like rain.

 

(c) Hedd Wyn (Vertaling: Louis Flint Ceci)

***

Hedd Wyn

 

Beneath the earth, beyond the sea – poet, heavy

      Do you lie: clasped the hands that can not free,

   Gone cold the blazing eye to see

   Beyond the door that binds and guards your keep.

 

All the living now is over – all the roaming

      Now is done.  You, when came the fatal hour,

   Long known a rover, now no longer

   Could you run, nor lie upon the earth, but under.

 

Tender is the moon tonight – rising over

      Trawsfynydd’s bog, but you lament the light

   That lauds the lonely moor and height;

   Black gravel seals and steals away your sight.

 

How could you have ever known – when you upon

      Your native bracken trod, or stood alone

   On treeless height or tireless hill did roam,

   That you would fall asleep so far from home?

 

There yet may rise another moon – and many a happy

      Time yet come.  But brothers, O! at least not soon,

   Lest we forget the worst was done

   When we gave up our darling to his doom.

 

A sin it was to drive this soul – so gentle, so

      Reclusive, from his solitary toil;

   Still worse, to drop him down a hole

   To waste in dust; but worst, on distant soil.

 

Leaving labour, leaving land – leaving meadow

      On the hill; leaving field and wooded stand,

   Leaving daylight, leaving rill, and

   Leaving all the green world lost behind.

 

His honored chair abides alone – the empty arms

      Forever reach: in silent speech they long

   To hold the bard, and beckon home,

   His song unsung, the peace that will not come.

 

 © R. Williams Parry (Vertaling:  Louis Flint Ceci)

 

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