Monday, 6 July 2009

poetry of Idris Davies

There doesn't seem to be much of Idris Davies' poetry on the internet, so I've uploaded these, some of which are in "This World of Wales - an anthology of Anglo-Welsh poetry", ed. Gerald Morgan, and others gleaned here and there.


(You might also like this poem by Meic Stephens, about colliery hooters; I do! And here is Alabaster Thomas, my own Valleys poem)



Gwalia Deserta VIII


Do you remember 1926 ? That summer of soups and speeches,

The sunlight on the idle wheels and the deserted crossings,

And the laughter and the cursing in the moonlight streets?

Do you remember 1926 ? The slogans and the penny concerts,

The jazz-bands and the moorland picnics,

And the slanderous tongues of famous cities?

Do you remember 1926 ? The great dream and the swift disaster,

The fanatic and the traitor, and more than all,

The bravery of the simple, faithful folk?

‘Ay, ay, we remember 1926,’ said Dai and Shinkin,

As they stood on the kerb in Charing Cross Road,

“And we shall remember 1926 until our blood is dry.”


Gwalia Deserta XV


O what can you give me?

Say the sad bells of Rhymney.


Is there hope for the future?

Cry the brown bells of Merthyr.


Who made the mineowner?

Say the black bells of Rhondda.


And who robbed the miner?

Cry the grim bells of Blaina.


They will plunder willy-nilly,

Say the bells of Caerphilly.


They have fangs, they have teeth

Shout the loud bells of Neath.


To the south, things are sullen,

Say the pink bells of Brecon.


Even God is uneasy,

Say the moist bells of Swansea.


Put the vandals in court

Cry the bells of Newport.


All would be well if — if — if —

Say the green bells of Cardiff.


Why so worried, sisters, why

Sing the silver bells of Wye.



Morning Comes Again

Morning comes again to wake the valleys
And hooters shriek and waggons move again,
And on the hills the heavy clouds hang low,
And warm unwilling thighs crawl slowly
Out of half a million ruffled beds.
Mrs Jones' little shop will soon be open
To catch the kiddies on the way to school,
And the cemetery gates will chuckle to the cemetery-keeper,
And the Labour Exchange will meet the servant with a frown.

Morning comes again, the inevitable morning
Full of the threadbare jokes, the conventional crimes,
Morning comes again, a grey-eyed enemy of glamour,
With the sparrows twittering and gossips full of malice,
With the colourless backyards and the morning papers,
The unemployed scratching for coal on the tips,
The fat little grocer and his praise for Mr Chamberlain,
The vicar and his sharp short cough for Bernard Shaw,
And the colliery-manager's wife behind her pet geranium
Snubbing the whole damn lot!


Mrs. Evans fach, you want butter again

Mrs. Evans fach, you want butter again.
How will you pay for it now, little woman
With your husband out on strike, and full
Of the fiery language? Ay, I know him,
His head is full of fire and brimstone
And a lot of palaver about communism,
And me, little Dan the Grocer
Depending so much on private enterprise.

What, depending on the miners and their
Money too? O yes, in a way, Mrs. Evans,
Come tomorrow, little woman, and I'll tell you then
What I have decided overnight.
Go home now and tell that rash red husband of yours
That your grocer cannot afford to go on strike
Or what would happen to the butter from Carmarthen?
Good day for now, Mrs. Evans fach.



Tiger Bay


I watched the coloured seamen in the morning mist,

Slouching along the damp brown street,

Cursing and laughing in the dismal dawn.

The sea had grumbled through the night,

Small yellow lights had flickered far and near,

Huge chains clattered on the ice-cold quays,

And daylight had seemed a hundred years away...

But slowly the long cold night retreated

Behind the cranes and masts and funnels,

The sea-signals wailed beyond the harbour

And seabirds came suddenly out of the mist.

And six coloured seamen came slouching along

With the laughter of the Levant in their eyes

And contempt in their tapering hands.

Their coffee was waiting in some smoke-laden den,

With smooth yellow dice on the unswept table,

And behind the dirty green window

No lazy dream of Africa or Arabia or India,

Nor any dreary dockland morning,

Would mar one minute for them.



High Summer on the Mountains


High summer on the mountains

And on the clover leas,

And on the local sidings,

And on the rhubarb leaves.


Brass bands in all the valleys

Blaring defiant tunes,

Crowds, acclaiming carnival,

Prize pigs and wooden spoons.


Dust on shabby hedgerows

Behind the colliery wall,

Dust on rail and girder

And tram and prop and all.


High summer on the slag heaps

And on polluted steams,

And old men in the morning

Telling the town their dreams.




A Victorian Portrait


You stood behind your Bible
And thundered lie on lie,
And your roaring shook your beard
And the brow above your eye.

There was squalor all around you
And disaster far ahead,
And you roared the fall of Adam
To the dying and the dead.

You built your slums, and fastened
Your hand upon your heart
And warned the drab illiterate
Against all useless art.

And you died upon the Sabbath
In bitterness and gloom,
And your lies were all repeated
Above your gaudy tomb.


Capel Calvin

There's holy holy people
They are in capel bach-
They don't like surpliced choirs,
They don't like Sospan Fach.

They don't like Sunday concerts,
Or women playing ball,
They don't like Williams Parry much
Or Shakespeare at all.

They don't like beer or bishops,
Or pictures without texts,
They don't like any other
Of the nonconformist sects.

And when they go to Heaven
They won't like that too well,
For the music will be sweeter
Than the music played in Hell.

Poem 18

Man alive, what a belly you've got!
You'll take all the serge in my little shop.
Stand still for a minute, now, and I'll get your waist.
Man alive, what a belly you've got!
Oh, I know it's only a striker's pay you get,
But don't misunderstand me, Hywel bach;
I depend for my bread on working men
And I am only a working man myself
Just Shinkin rees the little tailor,
Proud of my work and the people I serve;
And I wouldn't deny you a suit for all the gold in all the world.
Just pay me a little each week, Hywel bach,
And I am your tailor as long as you live,
Shinkin Rees your friend and your tailor,
Proud to serve you, and your dear old father before you.
But man alive, what a belly you've got!


A Victorian Portrait


You stood behind your Bible
And thundered lie on lie,
And your roaring shook your beard
And the brow above your eye.

There was squalor all around you
And disaster far ahead,
And you roared the fall of Adam
To the dying and the dead.

You built your slums, and fastened
Your hand upon your heart
And warned the drab illiterate
Against all useless art.

And you died upon the Sabbath
In bitterness and gloom,
And your lies were all repeated
Above your gaudy tomb.