Thursday 20 May 2010

an epitaph

On Monday we had a coach outing from Llandudno, to Caernarfon, Criccieth, Betws-y-Coed and the majestic scenery of Snowdonia (Eryri). Mountains always lift the spirits.

One place we stopped at was the village of Llanystumdwy ɬan(ə)sˈdɨmduɨ, where David Lloyd George is buried. He was the only British prime minister not to be a native speaker of English.

By his grave there is a memorial stone bearing an epitaph in verse.
Y maen garw, a maen ei goron, — yw bedd
Gŵr i’w bobl fu’n wron;
Dyfrliw hardd yw Dwyfor lon,
Anwesa’r bedd yn gyson.

ə ˈmaːɨn ˈɡaru | a ˈmaːɨn i ˈɡoron | ɨu ˈbeːð
ˈɡuːr iu ˈbobl vɨːn ˈuron
ˈdəvrliu ˈharð ɨu ˈduɨvor ˈlon
anˈwesar ˈbeːð ən ˈɡəson

My literal translation:
The rough stone, and the stone of his crown — is the grave
of a man who was a hero to his people;
cheerful Dwyfor* is a beautiful watercolour,
it caresses the grave for ever.

(* Dwyfor, ‘two seas’, is the name of the district in which Llanystumdwy is situated.)

This verse, like all formal Welsh poetry, exhibits the phenomenon known as cynghanedd kəŋˈhaneð, in which the consonants in the first part of a line of verse are echoed in the second half. (See blog, 22 Dec 2007.)

y maen garw, … maen ei goron…
dyfrliw … dwyfor lon…

I think I’m right in saying that the particular verse form here is known as the englyn unodl union ˈeŋlɨn ˈɨnodl ˈɨnjon (“straight single-rhymed englyn”). This consists of four lines of ten, six, seven and seven syllables. (I think garw in the first line is scanned as a monosyllable.) The eighth syllable of the first line introduces the rhyme, -on, which is then repeated in the last syllable of each of the other three lines.


  1. Dwyfor is indeed the name of the area, but I would have assumed the thing caressing DLG's grave was the Afon [River] Dwyfor.

  2. Yes, and I find it doesn't actually mean "two seas" but "great Dee (Dwy)", there being two rivers there bearing the name Dwy, distinguished as Afon Dwyfor and Afon Dwyfach. That is, "-for" represents "mawr" rather than "môr". Sorry.


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