THE JOURNEYING BOY…

The Journeying Boy: Scenes From A Welsh Childhood
by
Jon Manchip White

English bureaucracy decided that the easiest way to cope with the matter was to make the Welsh drop the ap and squeeze the two names together. So Ioan ap Dafydd would become Iona Dafydd, and if the name were later Englished, he would become Joan David or John Davidson. Ivor ap Hywel would become Ivor Hywel , and later Ivor Howell or Howells. This explains the the preponderance of Welsh surnames that were originally first names: … Evans (Ifan, Ieuan, Iwan… p. 91

These habits go back to Celtic times. They point to something ineradicable in the Welsh soul. Gerald has an interesting passage about the awen, which was akin to the hywl that special Welsh manner of preaching and praying. Among the Welsh, he says, there are persons known as the awenyddion, who behave as if they are possessed by devils. If you consult them about some problem, as once they go into a trance, losing control of their senses. They do not give logical answers to the questions put to them, but words stream from their lips, garbled and apparently with no sense, yet somehow at the same time clearly expressed. If you listen carefully, you will receive the answer to your question. Whey they fall into their trance, they call upon the true and living God and the Holy Trinity, and pray that their sins will not prevent them from uttering the truth. Some of them say it feels as if homey or milk with sugar has been smeared on their lips, or as if a sheet of paper with words on it was being pressed against their mouths.

Can you imagine such druidical or oracular practices being encouraged in England? In Wales they have persisted, first in a pagan and then a Christian guise, for two thousand years, and have spilled from religion into literature. Awen is an ancient word for the poetic gift, the muse, the divine afflatus. What they indicate, I think, is a kind of fundamental readiness in the Welsh soul to respond to spiritual promptings, an eagerness and openness to receive manifestations of the supernatural. It is surely not accidental that Wales should have given birth to such an abundance of devotional poets over the centuries or that, as I have mentioned earlier, many of the greatest religious poets writing in English should have possessed either Welsh blood or strong Welsh convictions. p. 207-8

And yet… and yet… Should we really consider the Welshman’s propensity to flirt with failure as one of his vices? Who, after are the so-called failures? Lear, Othello, Coriolanus, Anthony, Brutus? And who are the people who represent so-called success? Heads of advertising agencies, stockbrokers, franchisers of hamburgers and friend chicken? Where would a Welshman with any poetry in his soul prefer to spend a day: on the golf course with a stockbroker, or at the inn with Falstaff? And who would dare to call Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton the failures, and the bankers and stockbrokers the successes? p. 219

The blood of the dragon is in their veins. It is not easily diluted. p. 233

Leave a Reply

*
To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image