Damian Walford Davies 09

A poem by a lecturer in the English Department at Aberystwyth University has won the translation challenge organised by Translators’ House Wales for the week of the 2009 National Eisteddfod.

Damian Walford Davies was one of 29 people who took up the challenge to create a Welsh translation of the English-language poem Slate, Oak, Glass by National Poet, Gillian Clarke.

His name was announced at a special event held at the Aberystwyth University stand at the National Eisteddfod in Bala on Wednesday 5 August 2009. As well as a lecturer, Damian is also a published poet and won the Chair at the Urdd National Eisteddfod in 1993.

Damian was presented with a Translators' House Wales 2009 Bardic Staff by the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly of Wales, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas and the poet Menna Elfyn, who adjudicated the competition: "Through the process of translation, a poet is able to keep company with another poet. It forms links and friendships. The translator and the original poet are linked by the blood of the poem," she said.

Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones, Director of the Mercator Institute at the Department of Theatre, Film & Television Studies at Aberystwyth University said the competition highlighted the role of translator as creative artist:

"Translating literature is a creative process and by establishing Translators' House Wales / Tŷ Cyfieithu Cymru, we hope to give opportunities to both translators and writers to develop and refine the art of translating literature in Wales."

The winning translation and the original poem can be read below.

Llechi, Derw, Gwydr

Nid oes ar fynyddoedd frys;
silt yn setlo’n sidêt,
llaca’n llathru’n llechi,
y cynfyd ym mhlygion craig.

Tarren chwâl o wyneb cwar
dry’n dalp o blinth, yn dafell
llawr; esgynfa’n codi’n
serth o’r dur.

Dyma freuddwyd y coed:
parabl neu barabola,
ambarél o degyll sidan
a llwnc lili’n do.

Dyma freuddwyd dyn:
gwyddor y gronglwyd –
asennau derw’n ffrydio
a disgyn yn drai.

O’r ffiolau glaw daw golau’n
fflach drwy ddur a gwydr;
ffeiria’r cwfl dur ein geiriau chwith
am awelon ffres y Bae.

Yn y tŷ llathr hwn, clywch
y goedwig eto yn anadlu,
y mynydd yn syflyd dan draed,
hidl y tywod yn y gwydr.

Translation by Damian Walford Davies

Slate, Oak, Glass

Mountains spent time on this:
the slow settlement of silts,
mudstones metamorphosed to slate,
prehistory pressed in its pages.

Rock blown from the quarry face
and slabbed for a plinth, a floor,
a flight of stairs rising
straight from the sea.

The forest dreamed it:
parable or parabola,
a roof like the silk gills of fungi,
the throat of a lily.

A man imagined it:
the oak roof’s geometry
fluid and ribbed as the tides
in their flux and flow.

He cools us with roof-pools of rain
that flicker with light twice reflected,
a wind-tower of steel to swallow our words
and exchange them for airs off the Bay.

Inside this house of light
you can still hear the forest breathe,
feel the mountain shift underfoot,
hear the sands sift in the glass.

by Gillian Clarke

Damian Walford Davies is currently Professor and Head of the Department of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. He is also a poet and translator.