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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

Wales: Cardiff

Cardiff Castle

By From the Welsh

  • Anonymous translation
  • “Become master of his brother (Robert, Duke of Normandy), Henry imprisoned him in the Castle of Cardiff. For greater security the eyes of the unhappy duke were put out. His detention lasted from 1106 to 1135, when he died, and it was during this long period that he endeavored to soothe his weariness by becoming a poet. The songs of the Welsh bards were tried to alleviate his sorrows, and the deep distress he felt at being separated from his only child, whose prospects he had blighted. Forced to learn the language of his jailers, he made use of it to compose several pieces in Welsh, one of which remains, a sort of plaintive elegy. The prince looked on an old oak-tree rising above the forest, which covered the promontory on Penarth, on the Bristol Channel, and from the depths of his prison he thus mournfully addresses it, following the custom of the Welsh bards, who repeat the name of the parson or thing they address in each stanza.”—Chambers’ Book of Days.

  • OAK, born on these heights, theatre of carnage, where blood has rolled in streams:

    Misery to those who quarrel about words over wine.

    Oak, nourished in the midst of meadows covered with blood and corpses:

    Misery to the man who has become an object of hatred.

    Oak, grown up on this green carpet, watered with the blood of those whose heart was pierced by the sword:

    Misery to him who delights in discord.

    Oak, in the midst of trefoil and plants which whilst surrounding thee have stopped thy growth and hindered the thickening of thy trunk:

    Misery to the man who is in the power of his enemies.

    Oak, placed in the midst of woods which cover the promontory from whence thou see’st the waves of the Severn struggle against the sea:

    Misery to him who sees that which is not death.

    Oak, which has lived through storms and tempests in the midst of the tumult of war and the ravages of death:

    Misery to the man who is not old enough to die.