Welsh Literature


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Chapter 19: Conclusion

Gwyn Thomas' main achievement has been to achieve his goal: Welsh poetry, written in Welsh, has enjoyed a considerable readership. It couldn't have been otherwise in a country determined to survive as a cultural entity despite being treated as a mere bothersome adjunct to its powerful neighbor who for hundreds of years has wished to ignore it with its tricky foreign language and customs (and even trickier people). The author himself, schooled in the English border town of Chester, was never once made aware of the glorious literary heritage of the mysterious land to the west whose mountains can be seen from Chester's city walls within which, even today, there are laws on the books proscribing the activities of Welshmen and women.

At Chester's King's school (ironically named after a Welsh Tudor, Henry VIII) we were taught Ovid, but not Dafydd ap Gwilym; Wordworth, but not Ceiriog; Alfred the Great, but not Hywel Dda; Edward the Black Prince, but not Llewelyn ap Iorwerth; the Royal families of England; never those of Wales; the Peterloo Massacre, but not the Newport Rising; the martyrdom of Wat Tyler, but not that of Dic Penderyn; the heroics of Hereward battling the Normans to preserve his Saxon heritage, but never those of Glyndwr, battling the English.to save his Welsh nation; we studied the joys of French literature, but not those of Welsh; the intricacies of moribund Latin, but not those of living Celtic; the Union Jack, but never Y Ddraig Goch. (the Red Dragon); the Assize of Northampton, but never the Statute of Rhuddlan.

I hope that this brief and necessarily condensed study of almost 13 centuries of achievements in Welsh literature has laid to rest the idea promulgated by A.N. Wilson with which I began, that "it is an historic fact" that Wales has no independent literary tradition. From Aneirin and Taliesin in the seventh century to Gwyn Thomas and his colleagues in the 20th, the Welsh have proved their worth as a literary people producing world-class writings. Furthermore, as Dafydd Iwan reminds us in his song "Yma O Hyd" we are still here!

Chapter 20: Reading List

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