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Poem: Clychau’r Gog (Bluebells) by R Williams Parry

01 May 2024 4 minute read
Clychau’r Gog. Image: Stephen Price

Stephen Price


They come when the cuckoo comes

When she goes, they go too

The wild nostalgic scent,

The old enchanting hue

Arriving, then bidding goodbye,

Ah, but their days are few


Under the trees of the hillslope

On the steep flanks of the mount,

On meadow and dyke and bankside,

but not on bare harrowed ground,

The blue blossoms are swelling

That swell the cuckoo’s sound


Softer than Llandygai’s

Pealing at close of day,

They are tossing in the breezes,

These silent bells of May

Filling the mind with their chiming –

Ah but they fade away


For when honeysuckle nightly 

Burdens the summer air,

And harebells in abundance

Appear in the grass as before,

The cuckoo and her bells will

Stir in the wind no more

(Clychau’r Gog, R Williams Parry. Translation: Joseph P Clancy)

Clychau’r Gog, Crughywel. Image: Stephen Price

Clychau’r Gog

Dyfod pan ddêl y gwcw,

Myned pan êl y maent,

Y gwyllt atgofus bersawr,

Yr hen lesmeiriol baent

Cyrraedd, ac yna ffarwelio,

Ffarwelio. Och! na pharhaent


Dan goed y goriwaered

Yn nwfn ystlysau’r glog,

Ar ddôl a chlawdd a llechwedd

Ond llechwedd lom yr og

Y tyf y blodau gleision

A dyf yn sŵn y gog


Mwynach na hwyrol garol

O glochdy Llandygai

Yn rhwyfo yn yr awel

Yw mudion glychau Mai

Yn llenwi’r cof â’u canu;

Och na bai’n ddi-drai!


Cans pan ddêl rhin y gwyddfid

I’r hafnos ar ei hynt

A mynych glych yr eos

I’r glaswellt megis cynt,

Ni bydd y gog na’i chlychau

Yn gyffro yn y gwynt

R. Williams Parry (1952)
© Copyright The Archives Department, University of Wales, Bangor


R Williams Parry’s beloved poem, Clychau’r Gog, might appear to be a simple ode to our most celebrated of native wildflowers, but read between the lines and the poet’s deep felt ruminations on the nature of life, of Wales, of faith, of nature and everything in between brim to the surface.

Hiraeth both explained and made mysterious as ever.

It would do a disservice to the wealth of known and undiscovered Welsh poetry to label this classic of the Welsh language classroom a national favourite, especially since barddoniaeth is such a central and important feature of Welsh culture – how reductive is competition in the arts anyway – but it would certainly be true to say that it has become one of the most widely known Welsh language poems – not only because of its sheer beauty, but because of the magnetic pull of the bluebell itself.

The transcendental experience of a bluebell wood comes, in no small part, due to its fleeting nature and the long bare-branched winter beforehand.

More than any other flower, they seem to signify the passing of the seasons, and man’s desire to hold back the clock; to stop the sands of time running away.

If only the joyous burst of spring and inland sea of blue could remain forever.

Only the bluebell’s fleeting nature is what makes it so potent – its return in the face of vulnerability to Spanish invaders, footfall, destruction of nature and the like.

Perching common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus). Image: RSPB

This enduring ode to the bluebell is a lament on loss and a reminder to drink in the now. To embrace nature with every fibre of our being and each of our senses while we still can.

These silent bells of May. Let’s not let them fade away

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Elizabeth Stevens
Elizabeth Stevens
11 days ago

The bells of Llandygai definitely still do ring.

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