Yma o hyd.

It really is time for me to go home.

I haven’t been to Wales for over a year now,  since April 2014 to be precise, and that’s far too long. My parents aren’t growing any younger and my nieces and nephew are growing up at an alarming rate. I miss them all.

A lot of my German colleagues don’t actually see any difference between being Welsh and being English; in fact a lot of them think Wales is a part of England, (as do a lot of my English friends too, but that’s a different thing entirely).

When I’m asked to explain the difference, I hark back to the old favourite about the Welsh being the original Brits, and the English a product of the continental invasion of our sacred isle. However, that’s not strictly true.

Apart from the fact the gene pool has been diluted into an international slurry by two millennium of human migration, saying that the Welsh are Brits and the English Teuto/Franco/Nordic mongrels is grossly unfair. I think the main difference is in the heart of the language, and this can be captured by that one word that dominates my life at times like this: Hiraeth.

Merriam-Webster defines Hiraeth as, “a homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or that never was

The University of Wales, Lampeter attempts to define it as homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past. ( Taken from Wikipedia)

Both definitions do the word justice. The thing is, in that one word we see a difference in our national makeup. The majority of words we use in any language are taken from the generations before us. I know a lot of English mates who are sentimental about their home, but the English language has only ever come up with, “Homesickness”, and to me, that comes across as being too two-dimensional. It portrays the stiff upper lip, the disdain for any show of sentimentality that the English, (upper classes) are meant to be proud of.

In Hiraeth we have a word that seeks to go deeper than the superficial emotion of missing ones home. Obviously home isn’t just where we once lived, it’s the core of our heart, the place we can gather strength from, and where we can trace our own personal histories. Homesickness is an apt enough word to describe that yearning. However, Hiraeth goes a tad deeper; it’s missing everything that once defined you, your families, home, heritage and the memories of those that surrounded you at that time.

Homesickness is to the English speaker a longing for home. Hiraeth to the Welsh speaker, a longing for all that personally once was and never will be again.

I’m not a Welsh speaker, despite the best efforts of my gran and the school system. I have enough problems with German so let’s leave it there. However, I do love Welsh culture, and what brought me to this rambling post about missing home was a song I heard on Youtube this morning.

I watched a video about the flooding of the Tryweryn valley in 1965. The short history of that shameful episode is that the Liverpool City Council sought and received a Parliamentary bill to create a reservoir in the Tryweryn valley. Because it was approved by Parliament, the Liverpool City Council didn’t need the approval of the Welsh Local Authorities, and the village of Tryweryn was doomed to be drowned without even asking the people who lived there.

They say that the ill-fated fight to stop the building of the dam and reservoir was the beginning of the Welsh Nationalist Movement and the Free Wales Army, but that’s for cleverer heads than I to contemplate. The families were moved out and rehoused, the graveyard was relocated and the valley flooded. Just as a footnote, in 2005 the Liverpool City Council released an apology about their behaviour and handling of the matter. However, I thnk it’s fair to say that the Parliamentary bill on its own showed the Welsh, and the world, what the English thought of their neighbours at that time.

Anyway, I digress… as ever.

Under the video was a song that, to me, is one of the greatest Welsh songs ever. For me, “Mae’r Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” is the best anthem in the world, a song that can bring tears to any proud Welshman’s eye, I know it does to me.  However, “Yma O Hyd”, by Dafydd Iwan, with its cleverly crafted lyrics and stirring chorus comes a close second.

I first heard it around 1985, and though I probably liked it, it didn’t hold any real meaning to me at that time. In fact, I probably didn’t like it as I was young and had other more earthly things on my mind. It was only later in life when I had children of my own and I realised I had left my roots behind me, that the words and sentiment behind the song  hit home.

I listened to it and thought back to the first time I heard of Dafydd iwan, in a guardroom on a cassette player, with some unknown corporal trying to tell me its background. I never knew who he was, someone in HQ SQN who left not long after I joined, but he was fired up to be going back home and his passion for Wales showed me just how shallow my idea of national pride actually was.

This is the song, (the link is the green writing), with some subtitles under it for the English speakers … namely me 😦

Yma O Hyd

Yma o Hyd

Dwyt ti’m yn cofio Macsen,
does neb yn ei nabod o.
Mae mil a chwe chant o flynyddoedd,
yn amser rhy hir i’r co’.
Pan aeth Magnus Maximus o Gymru,
yn y flwyddyn tri-chant-wyth-tri,
a’n gadael yn genedl gyfan,
a heddiw – wele ni!

Ry’n ni yma o hyd,
ry’n ni yma o hyd,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth.
Ry’n ni yma o hyd,
ry’n ni yma o hyd,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth.
Ry’n ni yma o hyd.

Chwythed y gwynt o’r Dwyrain,
rhued y storm o’r môr,
hollted y mellt yr wybren,
a gwaedded y daran “encôr”!
Llifed dagrau’r gwangalon,
a llyfed y taeog y llawr.
Er dued yw’r fagddu o’n cwmpas,
ry’n ni’n barod am doriad y wawr!

Ry’n ni yma o hyd,
ry’n ni yma o hyd,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth.
Ry’n ni yma o hyd,
ry’n ni yma o hyd,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth.
Ry’n ni yma o hyd.

Cofiwn i Facsen Wledig
adael ein gwlad yn un darn
A bloeddiwn gerbron y gwledydd,
“Mi fyddwn yma tan Ddydd y Farn!”
Er gwaetha pob Dic Siôn Dafydd,
er gwaetha ‘rhen Fagi a’i chriw,
byddwn yma hyd ddiwedd amser,
a bydd yr iaith Gymraeg yn fyw!

Ry’n ni yma o hyd,
ry’n ni yma o hyd,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth.
Ry’n ni yma o hyd,
ry’n ni yma o hyd,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth.
Ry’n ni yma o hyd,
ry’n ni yma o hyd,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth.
Ry’n ni yma o hyd,
ry’n ni yma o hyd,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
er gwaetha pawb a phopeth…

 English translation
Still here

You don’t remember Macsen,
nobody knows him.
One thousand and six hundred years,
a time too long to remember.
When Magnus Maximus left Wales,
in the year 383,
leaving us a whole nation,
and today – look at us!

We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything.
We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything.
We are still here.

Let the wind blow from the East,3
let the storm roar from the sea,
let the lightning split the heavens,
and the thunder shout “encore!”
Let the tears of the faint-hearted flow,
and the servile lick the floor.
Despite the blackness around us,
we are ready for the breaking of the dawn!

We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything.
We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything.
We are still here.

We remember that Macsen the Emperor
left our country in one whole piece.
And we shall shout before the nations,
“We’ll be here until Judgement Day!”
Despite every Dic Siôn Dafydd,
despite old Maggie and her crew,
we’ll be here until the end of time,
and the Welsh language will be alive!

We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything.
We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything.
We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything.
We are still here,
we are still here,
in spite of everyone and everything,
in spite of everyone and everything…

Yep, time I went home.

Reg.

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4 thoughts on “Yma o hyd.

  1. Interesting post. Thanks.

    The word nostalgia may be a more appropriate translation than homesickness. That concept is strongly embedded in England – National Trust, planning restrictions and advertising (e.g. Hovis bread, or any food advert which portrays 1940s agriculture rather than the industrialised reality of the 21st century).

    For sure, Celtic culture seems to be full of nostalgia, and in the UK, blaming the English for everything that is wrong. I sometimes wonder if the Celtic history is completely objective (add in poverty, disease, war etc. and the past is not so pretty) or is perhaps being manipulated by some for political ends.

    As I age I too suffer from nostalgia; but the stark fact is that one has to concentrate on shaping and surviving the future.

    • I’d say nostalgia still doesn’t fit the bill, somehow. It seems too short-term, and dare I say it, positive! Hiraeth, like homesickness, has no positive side to it… well not that I know of anyway.
      Whatever, semantics are a pet hate of mine; comes from dealing with petulant teenagers who like to misconstrue everything to their advantage.
      Everyone blames the English for their troubles, and looking back on history you can see why as it’s not like the English were altruistic conquerors in the past. However, you are 100% correct about it being twisted for political means, what is history if not a propaganda tool? Old hates die hard, and Eddie the 1st’s stamp on the land can still be seen today; a gentle reminder that Wales was the first English colony, with all the degradation and draconian laws that title implies. So people are willing to believe the worst of their erstwhile rulers. That said, it wasn’t like the Welsh were Helots, and they did their own bit of trouble making themselves. It’s just we prefer our heroes to be glorious martyrs rather than vicious cross-border raiders.
      We’re both not spring chickens, Paddy. However, if I lived in Britain I think I could get a handle on dealing with my hankering for home. Living in a different culture, regardless of how benevolent and friendly that culture is, does tend to make one think of home more. I love my life here, my friends and my German family, but I still feel like a guest.

  2. Oh bless your heart honey. I feel for you. Funnily enough Countryfile on the BBC last night featured the flooding of the Tryweryn valley. It was quite moving x

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