Sunday, December 18, 2011


[Published in The Copperfield Review, Spring 2012]


Phebe Williams, 1856, as she and her husband, David, and a small group of fellow Mormons travel eastward from Utah to Kansas.  They had already crossed the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains the year before, as part of a group of Welsh Mormons migrating to Utah.

David sang in Welsh today—
faced the rising sun and sang;
his voice, so strong and clear,
we stopped our work and listened,
the women by the breakfast fires,
the men hitching up the mules,
even the soldiers escorting us—
all stopped and listened to him sing:
Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch
Lord, lead me through the wilderness—
O, his voice, like a sweet fountain flowing,
clear and strong across the prairie.
David sang in Welsh today—
how good to hear him sing again.

He never sang in Utah—

not with the other men
while working in the quarry.
He would not join the chapel choir,
saying he could not sing
while the Saints were in darkness;
would not sing as long as humble Saints
were forced to give their possessions to the Church;
to work first for the leaders,
and then for themselves.
This was not the Zion we expected—
the communal life he preached in Wales.
He would not sing while the Church
preached polygamy,
or all the temple rites,
or blind obedience to the priesthood.
He would not sing while rule in Zion
was no better than the ironmasters’
grips on the valleys of South Wales.

And when we left Utah
traveling east through the mountains,
he still would not sing—
No sounds that might help
the Destroying Angels find us;
no praises sung to heaven above;
no songs to ease the hiraeth we felt—
the longing for life back in Wales.

David sang in Welsh today,
faced the rising sun and sang.
We stopped our work and listened,
and then a rising chorus,
the men hitching up the mules,
the women tending the fires,
voices rising in harmony—
pilgrims of poor appearance,
singing in this barren land.
We felt our anxious fears subside,
and the spirit of God and hope flowed through us,
like the River Jordan in the desert.

David canodd yn Gymraeg heddiw.
David sang in Welsh today.

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