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This review is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

'"SAY, POET, WHAT IS IT YOU DO?" - "I PRAISE".' The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English, edited by Gwyn Jones, £4.95 pb.
Anglo-Welsh Poetry 1480-1980, edited by Raymond Garlick and Roland Mathias (Poetry Wales Press) £3.50

Gwyn Jones's Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English offers a mixture of verse translations from the Welsh and 'Anglo-Welsh' poems, i.e. poems written in English by Welshmen. No special knowledge of the Welsh tradition is assumed - the book is for the general reader, 'that legendary cretin' as Dylan Thomas felicitously described him. Contributions by twenty-two translators - very few of whom are able to produce interesting poems in English - have been assembled. It is immediately clear that Welsh has not attracted poet-translators of the calibre of those who have translated, say, Latin verse - Daffyd ap Gwilym has yet to find his Marlowe; to provide a fairer comparison there is not even anyone able to do for verse in Welsh what Frank O'Connor has done for verse in Irish. In the main the English-speaking reader must bring his own fideistic fervour to these versions if he is to perceive much that might pass for poetry in them. If he does this, and many of us are willing to, the ghost of the early heroic poetry does flicker tantalisingly behind, for example, the versions here presented of extracts from Aneirin's Gododdin and the Llywarch Hen stanzas.

The exceptions to this depressing rule are nearly all by Gwyn Williams, whose translations are by far the liveliest and most satisfying in the book. His version of the anonymous 'Glyn Cynon Wood' - a lament for the felling of a forest by Saxon iron workers - is particularly ...


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