Culture

Hidden wartime letters of one of Wales’ most notable 20th century poets discovered under false name

02 Jun 2021 6 minutes Read
Robert Williams-Parry. Photomechanical print by William Faithorne. Part of the National Library of Wales portrait archive. Public domain.

*English follows below*

Mae 30 o lythyrau y bardd o Ddyffryn Nantlle, R Williams Parry wedi dod i’r fei – dros ganrif wedi iddynt gael ei sgrifennu.

Rhan o archif Cymdeithas Addysg y Gweithwyr yw’r casgliad, fu yn gorwedd yn Archif y Brifysgol ym Mangor am dros 20 mlynedd. Bellach, maent wedi eu trosglwyddo i Addysg i Oedolion, ac mae tair gwraig yn mynd drwyddynt yn raddol ers dechrau’r flwyddyn. Meddai Angharad Tomos,

“Roeddem yn gyffrous fod un neu ddau lythyr gan Williams Parry i Silyn Roberts wedi ymddangos, ond roedd llond amlen frown o lythyrau o’r Rhyfel i Silyn gan ŵr o’r enw Llion, na wyddem ddim yn ei gylch. O ddarllen cynnwys y llythyrau, mae’n amlwg mai rhai Williams Parry ydynt. ‘Llion’ oedd ei ffugenw yn Eisteddfod 1910 pan enillodd y gadair am Awdl yr Haf.”

Mae’r llythyrau yn dyddio o 1913, pan oedd Bardd yr Haf yn athro yng Nghefnddwysarn i 1928, ddwy flynedd cyn i Silyn farw. I Silyn y mae’r llythyrau i gyd. “Mae yna un doniol ofnadwy am Williams Parry yn dweud ei hanes yn arwain steddfod yn Nhanrallt Llanllyfni ym 1915, ac yn sôn am helyntion beirniadu. Mae cymaint o wahaniaeth rhwng diniweidrwydd y llythyr hwnnw, a’r rhai diweddarach o’r Fyddin” meddai Angharad.

Yn y llythyrau, mae Williams Parry yn anfon ei gerddi, ac yn eu trafod, ond mae swm a sylwedd y llythyrau yn sôn pa mor unig ydyw yn y Fyddin. Dyma ddyfyniad o un,

“Yr incedentals mewn rhyfel yw’r pethau gwaethaf – mae’r bedd ei hun yn drugarog iawn:- oerni, cwmni anghydnaws, unigrwydd, diflastod, gerwindra dyn a natur – dyna yw’r pethau mwyaf anymunol ynglyn a hwy. Cerdded i fewn i’r hut, a dim un o’r lliaws Cymry a Saeson yno y gallwch gael ‘sgwrs gall’ efo nhw am hanner munud heb son am hanner awr: ddim ond son am spree a’r gwn mawr. Ond bydd fy sense of humour yn dod i’r rescue yn aml. Fel y dywedais wrthych o’r blaen, ni fyddai’n ddim gen i fod mewn bayonet charge efo ysbrydion etholedig fel Hamlet neu Elidir Sais. Mae rhyfel heb ei rhamant yn waeth na marwolaeth.”

Mae yn crefu am gymorth Silyn i’w helpu i newid catrawd. Meddai, ‘Dwyf fi ddim am fynd i’r angau yng nghwmni Cockneys’. Yn ffodus, llwyddodd Silyn i’w helpu i fynd i gatrawd lle gallodd fod ymysg Cymru. Oherwydd ei iechyd (a’i olwg gwael) ni orfodwyd Williams Parry i fynd i faes y gad, a gwaith clercio gafodd yn ystod y Rhyfel, ond roedd yr ofn yno’n barhaol y cai ei basio yn A1 a’i anfon i Ffrainc. Drwy gyfnod y llythyrau (1917) mae yn sgwennu cerddi i goffhau ffrindiau laddwyd yn y Rhyfel. Ond B2 a B1 oedd ei gyflwr ef, ac fe’i arbedwyd rhag y gwaethaf. Er ei fod yn filwr anobeithiol, bu raid iddo gael yr hyfforddiant llawn fel milwr. Od ydi gweld cyfarwyddiadau sut i ladd yn llawysgrif Bardd yr Haf, ddaw o ‘Notes’ e.e. ‘Always explain that when he is taking the final pressure, he must restrain the breathing (tip. Just tell the man to listen to his watch ticking)‘.

Mae un llythyr gorfoleddus wedi ei sgwennu – ar ddydd olaf y Rhyfel,

‘Glory be! Hallelujah! Bendigedig! Wele gyfiawnder fel y môr a heddwch fel tonnau’r môr. Yr wyf yn rhy orfoleddus i sgwennu bron. Rhaid i mi fynd i’r synagog neu’r dafarn.’

Ac wrth gwrs, mae’r frawddeg olaf yn cael ei defnyddio ugain mlynedd yn ddiweddarach yn ‘Cymru 1937’, – ‘Chwyth ef i’r synagog neu chwyth ef i’r dafarn.’

“Mae hwn yn gasgliad gwerthfawr sydd yn ychwanegu at ein dealltwriaeth o R.Williams Parry fel dyn ac fel bardd” meddai Angharad. Alan Llwyd sydd wedi sgwennu cofiant y bardd, ‘Bob’ yn 2013. Ar dudalen 147 mae’n cyfeirio at lythyr sgwennodd Williams Parry i Annie Ffoulkes, gan ddweud ‘Ac arwyddodd y llythyr ‘Llion’.

‘Valuable’

Thirty letters written during wartime by one of Wales’ most notable 20th century poets have been discovered written under a false name.

The letters by R. William Parry were discovered in a brown envelope in Bangor University’s archive under the name ‘Llion’ – his nom de plume when competing in the 1910 National Eisteddfod.

The Welsh letters from 1913 are addressed to another Welsh poet – and socialist and pacifist Silyn Roberts. In them, R. Williams Parry discusses his poems, but many of them are about how lonely the army is.

“The incidentals in war are the worst things […]  coldness, incompatible company, loneliness, boredom, the roughness of man and nature – these are the most unpleasant things about it,” he writes.

“Walk into the hut, and none of the many Welsh and English people there can have a ‘sensible conversation’ for half a minute let alone a half hour: just a chat about fun and the big gun.

“But my sense of humility will come to the rescue often. As I told you before, I wouldn’t mind being in a bayonet charge with elected spirits like Hamlet or Elidir Sais. War without its romance is worse than death.”

Williams Parry was never sent to the front line in the end because of his poor health. There is however one jubilant letter – written on the day the war came to an end:

“Glory be! Hallelujah! Blessed! Behold justice as the sea and peace as waves of the sea. I am almost too joyful to write. I have to go to the synagogue or the pub.”

Since the letters were discovered author Angharad Tomos and two others have been reading through them.

“We were excited that one or two letters from Williams Parry to Silyn Roberts had appeared, but there was a brown envelope of letters from the War to Silyn by a man called Llion, of whom we didn’t know,” she said.

“From reading the contents of the letters, it is clear that they are Williams Parry. ‘Llion’ was his nickname at the 1910 Eisteddfod when he won the chair.

“This is a valuable collection that adds to our understanding of R.Williams Parry as a man and a poet,” Angharad Tomos added.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago

Llion…good name for a boy, if you are looking for one!

Mandi A
Mandi A
6 months ago

Not a ‘nickname’, his bardic name. His winning entry in the 1910 Eisteddfod ‘Yr Haf’ has been described as “the best known and admired of all eisteddfod awdlau of the 20th century”. People in Wales took their poetry seriously in those days. Cousin to the better-known but very under-appreciated TH Parry-Williams. Look up welshbiographyonline at the National Library of Wales, a priceless resource.

Nice to have a bilingual article on nation.cymru. Please give people a proper byline.

David Mortimer-Jones
David Mortimer-Jones
6 months ago

I think bilingual articles should contain full translations. Was it thought that his desire to change regiments because he “didn’t want to die with Cockneys”, for example might be found offensive in certain quarters and therefore omitted or censored one might say?

Last edited 6 months ago by David Mortimer-Jones
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 months ago

Chawarae Teg, I would hate to kick the bucket with a load of drunk xxxxxx’s on a flight to Spain!

j humphrys
j humphrys
6 months ago

David Jones said the Cymro and Cockneys got on well. Bitter sweet thought, that we may both become extinct, yet will meet again in Heaven.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
6 months ago

I don’t think an article in Welsh needs to have a translation per se, if some articles are Welsh it will encourage people to learn the language. If people don’t understand Welsh it is not the end of the world or if really want to understand they can either use Google Translate. I live in India and am learning Hindi, sadly don’t understand every thing written in Indian languages but that is fine, not the end of the world and I don’t expect everything to be translated for me.

Mandi A
Mandi A
6 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Owen

Does open up possibilities for debate to all if articles are in both languages. Interesting time to be in India.

CJPh
CJPh
6 months ago

I wonder where exactly they were found. In a ‘fro rhwng mor a mynydd’ probably…

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
6 months ago

Gwych cael erthygl yn Gymraeg, gadewch i ni gael mwy os gwelwch yn dda

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
6 months ago

Great to have an article in Welsh, lets have more please. Not to replace English but it would be nice to see both languages used. Da iawn 😊

John McDougall
John McDougall
6 months ago

Great to see Welsh language articles in Nation Cymru as well as English!

John McDougall
John McDougall
6 months ago

Braf i weld erthygl Gymraeg mewn Nation Cymru.

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