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Welsh Melodies/The Lament of Llywarch Hen



[Llywarch Hen, or Llywarch the Aged, a celebrated bard and chief of the times of Arthur, was prince of Argoed, supposed to be a part of the present Cumberland. Having sustained the loss of his patrimony, and witnessed the fall of most of his sons, in the unequal contest maintained by the North Britons against the growing power of the Saxons, Llywarch was compelled to fly from his country, and seek refuge in Wales. He there found an asylum for some time in the residence of Cynddylan, Prince of Powys, whose fall he pathetically laments in one of his poems. These are still extant; and his elegy on old age and the loss of his sons, is remarkable for its simplicity and beauty.—See Cambrian Biography, and Owen's Heroic Elegies and other poems of Llywarch Hen.]

The bright hours return, and the blue sky is ringing
With song, and the hills are all mantled with bloom;
But fairer than aught which the summer is bringing,
The beauty and youth gone to people the tomb!
Oh! why should I live to hear music resounding,
Which cannot awake ye, my lovely, my brave?
Why smile the waste flowers, my sad footsteps surrounding?
—My sons! they but clothe the green turf of your grave!

Alone on the rocks of the stranger I linger,
My spirit all wrapt in the past as a dream!
Mine ear hath no joy in the voice of the singer,3[1]
Mine eye sparkles not to the sunlight's glad beam;
Yet, yet I live on, though forsaken and weeping!
—O grave! why refuse to the aged thy bed,
When valour's high heart on thy bosom is sleeping,
When youth's glorious flower is gone down to the dead!

Fair were ye, my sons! and all kingly your bearing,
As on to the fields of your glory ye trode!
Each prince of my race the bright golden chain wearing,
Each eye glancing fire, shrouded now by the sod!4[2]
I weep when the blast of the trumpet is sounding,
Which rouses ye not, O my lovely! my brave!
When warriors and chiefs to their proud steeds are bounding,
I turn from heaven's light, for it smiles on your grave!5[3]

  1. 3 "What I loved when I was a youth is hateful to me now"

  2. 4 "Four and twenty sons to me have been
    Wearing the golden chain, and leading princes."
    Elegies of Llywarch Hen.

    The golden chain, as a badge of honour, worn by heroes, is frequently alluded to in the works of the ancient British bards.

  3. 5 "Hardly has the snow covered the vale,
    When the warriors are hastening to the battle;
    I do not go, I am hinder'd by infirmity."
    Elegies of Llywarch Hen.