Evan Evans (bardic name, Ieuan Fardd—Evan the Bard; also known as Ieuan Brydydd Hir—Evan the Tall Poet) was one of the greatest Welsh scholars and poets of the latter half of the 18th century. Evans, who wrote in Welsh, English, and Latin, authored a pioneering study of the history of Welsh poetry, Some Specimens of the Poetry of Antient Welsh Bards (1764), offering some of the first translations of early Welsh poets into English. The poem featured here today, Llys Ifor Hael (The Hall of Ifor Hael), draws upon the elegiac style of early Welsh poets, while also reflecting the late-18th century Romantics’ interest in the past. Ifor Hael (Ifor the Generous) was the 14th century lord of Basaleg, Gwent (Monmouthshire), South Wales. He was well known as a patron of poets; Dafydd ap Gwilym addressed several poems to Ifor.
The Welsh text is from the Oxford Book of Welsh Verse; the English translation (by Gwyn Williams) is from the Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English. The Welsh folk music group, Ffynnon, have set the poem to music, which you can find here.
LLYS IFOR HAEL/THE HALL OF IFOR HAEL
Llys Ifor Hael, gwael yw’r gwedd—yn garnau
Mewn gwerni mae’n gorwedd;
Drain ac ysgall mall a’i medd,
Mieri lle bu mawredd.
Yno nid oes awenydd—na beirddion,
Na byrddau llawenydd,
Nac aur yn ei magwyrydd,
Na mael, na gŵr hael a’i rhydd.
I Ddafydd gelfydd ei gân—oer ofid
Roi Ifor mewn graean;
Mwy echrys fod ei lys lân
Yn lleoedd i’r dylluan.
Er bri arglwyddi byr glod—eu mawredd
A’u muriau sy’n darfod;
Lle rhyfedd I fachedd fod
Yw teiau ar y tywod.
Ifor Hael’s hall, poorly it looks,
A cairn it lies in the meadow;
Thorns and the blight of thistles own it,
Briars where once was greatness.
There’s no more genius there,
No bards or boards of joy;
No gold within its walls,
No mail, no generous giver.
Cold grief for Dafydd, skilled in song,
The putting of Ifor in earth;
The paths where once was singing
Are now the owl’s places.
Despite the brief glory of lords,
Grandeur and walls must end;
Strange place for pride to be
Is houses in the gravel.