Monday 24 June 2019

The Snow

"I cannot sleep, I cannot leave the house, I am distressed because of it. There is no world, no ford, no hillside, no open space, no ground today. I won't be tempted out of my house into the fine snow, at the word of a girl.

What a plague the thing is, feathers on ones gown that cling like the spume of fighting dragons! My excuse is that my clothes would be all as white as the clothes of a miller. After New Year's Day, it is no lie, everyone dresses in white fur; in the month of January, the first of the series, God makes us into hermits. God has whitewashed the black earth all around; there is no underwood without its white dress, there is no copse without its coverlet.

Fine flour is the fur on every bough, flour of the sky like the flowers of April; a bitter cold sheet over the greenwood grove, a load of chalk flattening the wood, a mirage of wheaten flour, a mail coat vesting the level ground. The soil of the plough-land is a cold grit, a thick tallow on the face of the earth, a very thick shower of foam, fleeces bigger than a man's fist; throughout North Wales they made their way, they are white bees from Heaven.

Whence can God raise up so great a plague? Where is there room for so many goose-feathers of the saints? Own brother to a heap of chaff, in its ermine shirt, the snow is skilled to leap the heather. The dust has changed to snowdrifts now, where once was bird-song and the narrow lanes.

Does anyone know what sort of folk are spitting on the ground in the month of January? White angels it must be, no less, who are sawing wood up in Heaven; see, from the floor of the flour-loft they have raised the plank trapdoor.

An ephemeral silver dress of ice, quicksilver, coldest in the world, a cold mantle (too sad that it stays), the cement of hill and dale and dyke, a thick steel coat, heavy as a landslide, a pavement greater than the sea's graveyard; a great fall it is upon my land, a pale wall reaching from sea to sea. Who dares cry shame upon it? It is like lead in the cloak! Where is the rain?"

Welsh; attributed to Dafydd ap Gwilym, c.1325-1380.

Taken by me (and paragraphs added) from 'A Celtic Miscellany', Penguin Classics, by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson.


  1. Didn't think I'd be reading any ap Gwilym again anytime soon. There's a great Welsh poetry collection called, "Medieval Welsh Lyrics" by Joseph Clancy. Almost the first half of the book is just ap Gwilym. Has a handy pronunciation table and everything.

  2. Marvellous little book. Love your blog.