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This review is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

BROTHERHOOD'S COUNTRY Welsh Verse, translations by Tony Conran (Poetry Wales Press) £10.95, £4.95 pb.
Roland Mathias, Anglo-Welsh Literature: An Illustrated History (Poetry Wales Press) £5.95 pb.
Poetry Wales, John Tripp Special Feature, Vol 22 Issue 1, edited by Mike Jenkins, £1.25

The Welshman who complained, in 1846, that a stranger to the history of Britain might infer from reading English periodicals that the 'Saxons either found our island as desert as that of Robinson Crusoe, or exterminated all previous inhabitants; or at least that they possessed some qualities so brilliant as to render them alone in Great Britain thence-forward deserving of mention', had a point that is still valid today. The general ignorance of the Welsh literary tradition among readers of poetry in England may be ascribed to the barrier of the language, but there has been no excuse for it since the translations of the last twenty years or so, of which Tony Conran's are especially impressive as poems in English. At no great distance from London, a poetic tradition exists which, Tony Conran argues, defines a civilization that is radically different from the English. It is a tradition whose first extant works date from the sixth century, and it is still alive today. In this century, the Welsh tradition has also helped to produce a literature in English with marked, separate features. The least that can be said is that English poets are offered an authoritative challenge by two literatures that are at once so close to them, in terms of that poignant concept 'our island', and, perhaps, so far from them in spirit.

Since it is impossible in a short space to attempt an adequate survey of Welsh poetry, I shall confine my attention mainly ...


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