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The Stephen Spender Prize 2014 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

Open category, second prize

Read the judges’ comments
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years


Gwyneth Lewis

The Wind


   Skywind, skilful disorder,
Strong tumult walking by there,
Wondrous man, rowdy-sounding,
Hero, with nor foot nor wing.
Yeast in cloud loaves, who's been thrown out
Of sky's pantry with not one foot
How swiftly you run, and so well
This moment above the high hill.

   Tell me, north wind of the cwm,
Your route, reliable hymn.
Over the whole world you fly,
Tonight, hill weather, please stay high,
Man, go to Upper Aeron
Be cool, and stay right in tune.
Be quick, don't let that maniac,
Litigious Little Bow, hold you back
He's toxic. Society
And its goods are closed to me.

   Nest thief, though you winnow leaves
No one condemns you, nor impedes
You, no posse, nor law's hand,
Neither blade, nor flood, nor rain.
No son of man can kill you,
Fire won't burn nor treason harm you.
You won't drown, as you're aware,
You're never stuck—angle-less air.
Horseless, you gallop about,
Need no bridge, nor any boat. […]
Sight can't see you, wide-open den,
We hear you, nest of great rain.

   Across the world, you are God's grace,
The roar when tearing oaks break;
You play clouds' notes in sky's score,
Dance, athletic, over moors,
Dry-humoured, clever creature;
On clouds' stepping-stones you range far. […]
Sea storms show your jeu d'esprit,
Randy surfer where land meets sea.
Bold poet, rhyming snowdrifts you are,
Scatterer of leaves you are,
Clown of peaks, you go scot-free
Driving masts mad in foaming sea.

   Poor me when I first felt desire
For Morfudd of the golden hair.
A woman's the cause of my disgrace.
Run up to her father's house
Knock hard and make him open
To my messenger pre-dawn,
Find her, if there's any way,
Give voice to the song of my sigh.
You come from unsullied stars,
She's noble, loyal, tell her:
For as long as I'm alive
I will be her loyal slave.
Without her, frankly, I'm a mess
If it's true she's not been faithless.

   Climb, hold her in your spotlight,
Then plunge down, heaven's favourite.
Go to Morfudd Gray the blonde
Come back safe, holy vagabond.

Translated from the Welsh by Gwyneth Lewis
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Y Gwynt


   Yr wybrwynt, helynt hylaw,
Agwrdd drwst a gerdda draw,
Gwr eres wyd garw ei sain,
Drud byd heb droed heb adain.
Uthr yw more eres y'th roed
O bantri wybr heb untroed,
A buaned y rhedy
Yr awr hon dros y fron fry.

   Dywaid ym, diwyd emyn,
Dy hynt, di ogleddwynt glyn.
Hydoedd y byd a hedy,
Hin y fron, bydd heno fry,
Och wr, a dos Uwch Aeron
Yn glaer deg, yn eglur dôn.
Nac aro di, nac eiriach,
Nac ofna er Bwa Bach,
Cyhuddgwyn wenwyn weini.
Caeth yw'r wlad a'i maeth i mi.

   Nythod ddwyn, cyd nithud ddail
Ni'th dditia neb, ni'th etail
Na llu rhugl, na llaw rhaglaw,
Na llafn glas na llif na glaw,
Ni'th ladd mab mam, gam gymwyll,
Ni'th lysg tân, ni'th lesga twyll.
Ni boddy, neu'th rybuddiwyd,
Nid ei ynglyn, diongl wyd,
Nid rhaid march buan danad,
Neu bont ar aber, na bad. […]
Ni'th wyl drem, noethwal dramawr,
Neu'th glyw mil, nyth y glaw mawr.

   Rhad Duw wyd ar hyd daear,
Rhuad blin doriad blaen dâr,
Noter wybr natur ebrwydd,
Neitiwr gwiw dros nawtir gwydd,
Sych natur, creadur craff,
Seirniawg wybr, siwrnai gobraff. […]
Drycin yn ymefin môr,
Drythyllfab ar draethellfor,
Hyawdr awdl heod ydwyd,
Hëwr, dyludwr dail wyd,
Hyrddwr, breiniol chwarddwr bryn,
Hwylbrenwyllt heli bronwyn.

   Gwae fi pan roddais i serch
Gobrudd ar Forfudd, f'eurferch.
Rhiain a'm gwnaeth yn gaethwlad,
Rhed fry rhod a thy ei thad.
Cur y ddôr, par egori
Cyn y dydd i'm cennad i,
A chais ffordd ati, o chaid,
A chân lais fy uchenaid.
Deuy o'r sygnau diwael,
Dywaid hyn i'm diwyd hael:
Er hyd yn y byd y bwyf,
Corodyn cywir ydwyf.
Ys gwae fy wyneb hebddi,
Os gwir nad anghywir hi,

   Dos fry, ti a wely wen,
Dos obry, dewis wybren.
Dos at Forfudd felenllwyd,
Debre'n iach, da wybren wyd.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
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Translation commentary


Dafydd ap Gwilym, the great medieval poet, is an extreme challenge for translators. This is only partly due to the metrical complexity of the cywydd, the measure he invented. Consisting of seven-syllable couplets with alternate feminine and masculine rhymes, the cywydd is adapted from French courtly verse. In addition, it's written in cynghanedd or 'harmony' within each line. This is a complex codification of alliterative correspondence and internal rhymes. I did not attempt to reproduce this fractal ornamentation because that would require inventing new imagery in English. Former translators of ap Gwilym have either given a prose rendition of the sense – making it sound baggy – or diluted the content in order to preserve the rhyme.

My aim was to preserve the brilliance of ap Gwilym's metaphorical thinking while retaining his metrical lightness of touch. The pace of ap Gwilym's metre is an important part of his depiction of the mischievous wind. Indeed, the movement of his thinking through his measure is how he embodies the wind in the poem. Everything the poet says about the wind is true of his own method of composition. This poem, therefore, shows Dafydd's muse tumbling, at the pace of his words, through the world.

My choice of vocabulary steers between two extremes. The first would be using words consistent with the historical period of the poem. The second would be using fully contemporary words to 'update' the world of the poem. I chose to steer a middle course, so that this will not date my translation.

Welsh poetry is syllabic, English accentual. Dafydd ap Gwilym's extreme concision in Welsh is hard to convey within seven syllables and without a sense of strain. My priority has been to capture the tone of the poet's wit and his joie de vivre.

Gwyneth Lewis