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Clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
English
Welsh
Manuscript

O dan y môr â’i donnau
O dan y môr â’i donnau
Beneath the sea and its waves
Mae llawer dinas dlôs,
Mae llawer dinas dlôs,
Are many cities fair
Fu’n gwrando ar y clychau
Fu’n gwrando ar y clychau
That used to listen to bells
Yn canu gyda’r nôs;
Yn canu gyda’r nôs;
Ringing at coming night;
Trwy ofer e#geulu#dod
Trwy ofer esgeulusdod
But through idle negligence
Y gwyliwr ar y twr,
Y gwyliwr ar y twr,
Of the watch on the tower,
Aeth clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Aeth clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Ô’r golwg dan y dwr.
Ô’r golwg dan y dwr.
Vanished beneath the water.



Pan fyddo’r môr yn berwi,
Pan fyddo’r môr yn berwi,
When the whirlwind’s on the wave
A’r corwynt ar y don,
A’r corwynt ar y don,
And the surge on the sea,
A’r wylan wen yn methu
A’r wylan wen yn methu
And the white gull’s bound to fail
A di#gyn ar ei bron;
A disgyn ar ei bron;
To alight on its bosom,
Pan dyr y don ar dywod,
Pan dyr y don ar dywod,
When the wave breaks on the sand,
A tharan yn ei #twr,
A tharan yn ei stwr,
And the thunder rumbles,
Mae clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Mae clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Yn ddi#taw dan y dwr.
Yn ddistaw dan y dwr.
Keep quiet beneath the water.



Ond pan fô’r môr heb awel,
Ond pan fô’r môr heb awel,
But when no breeze is at sea,
A’r don heb ewyn gwyn,
A’r don heb ewyn gwyn,
No white foam on the wave,
A’r dydd yn marw yn dawel
A’r dydd yn marw yn dawel
And the day’s gently dying
Ar y#gwydd bell y bryn,
Ar ysgwydd bell y bryn,
On the hill’s far shoulder,
Mae nodau pêr yn dyfod,
Mae nodau pêr yn dyfod,
Many a sweet note’s coming,
A gwn yn eithaf #iwr
A gwn yn eithaf siwr
And I know it for sure:
Fod clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
Fod clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
The bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
I’w clywed dan y dwr.
I’w clywed dan y dwr.
I hear beneath the water.



O! cenwch, glych fy mebyd,
O! cenwch, glych fy mebyd,
Ring, you bells of my boyhood
Ar waelod llaith y lli;
Ar waelod llaith y lli;
On the flow’s soggy floor:
Daw oriau bore bywyd
Daw oriau bore bywyd
Life’s morning hours come to me
Yn #wn y gân i mi;
Yn swn y gân i mi;
Within the sound of song;
Hyd fedd mi gofia’r tywod
Hyd fedd mi gofia’r tywod
On sand till the grave I’ll remember
Ar lawer nos ddi-#twr,
Ar lawer nos ddi-stwr,
Many a peaceful night
A chlychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
A chlychau Cantre’r Gwaelod
And the bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod
Yn canu dan y dwr.
Yn canu dan y dwr.
Ringing beneath the water.

Commentary
Clychau Cantre’r Gwaelod (The Bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod) is a poem of John James Williams (1869-1954), J. J. by his bardic name. A pastor and a poet, he composed secular poems, many hymns and two scriptural plays. He competed in the poetry contest of the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru (National Eisteddfod of Wales), the most important of the yearly festivals of Welsh culture, and won the chair awarded to the best bard in 1906 and 1908. Later in life he adjudicated the chair competition for nearly a quarter of a century, and presided it as Archdruid from 1936 to 1939.

This poem is well-known in Wales. It is a modern evocation of a famous Welsh legend, first attested from the 13th century in the Black Book of Carmarthen (Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin). The legend in its late form tells that there were once large tracts of lowland under the current Cardigan Bay (Bae Ceredigion), the large inlet of the Irish Sea indenting the western coast of Wales. They were called Cantre’r Gwaelod “the Lowland Hundred” (a cantref or hundred was a territorial unit of Wales in the Middle Ages) and were ruled by the king Gwyddno Garanhir (“Longshanks”). The land has sixteen cities and was defended from the sea by an embankment and sluices. Their keeper was Seithennin. One evening in a banquet he became drunk, forgot to close the sluices, and so let the sea rush in and drown land and people; Taliesin the bard was the only one to escape alive. Ever since, some people believe that they can hear the bells of the sunken cities ringing faintly beneath the sea...

Similar stories of lands submerged by lakes of by the sea are widespread in Wales, and also found in Cornwall (with the land of Lyonesse lost to the sea) and Brittany (with the drowned city of Ys). They may keep memories of sudden coastal floodings, bolstered by the stumps of old submerged forests appearing at very low tides on several points of the Welsh coast. Although rarely mentioned as possible inspirations for Tolkien, they are reminiscent of the lost lands of his legendarium, Beleriand and Númenor. Of course, the main source of the story Númenor was Atlantis by Tolkien’s self admission; but for its other name of Westernesse he once gave Lyonesse (together with Logres, the realm of Arthur) as an inspiration in the Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings. Besides, a mysterious ringing of bells from the sea filled with longing features prominently in his poem The Sea-Bell published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. With such echoes, J. J. Williams’ poem seemed us quite appropriate here as an illustration of modern literary Welsh.

The translation is ours. The text’s transcription emulates the Gothic minuscule, a common style of the Latin alphabet in the second half of the Middle Ages. We made use of Pia Frauss’ typeface _a e i o u.

References
Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings. In Hammond, Wayne G., Scull, Christina. The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion. London: HarperCollins, 2005. P. 750–782. ISBN 0-00-720907-X.
Gwyndaf, Robin. Chwedlau Gwerin Cymru = Welsh Folk Tales. Caerdydd/Cardiff: Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru/National Museum of Wales, 1989. 101/105 p. ISBN 0-7200-0326-1.
Y Bywgraffiadur Cymreig = Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Llundain/London: Anrhydeddus Gymdeithas y Cymmrodorion/The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1953-2001. 🌍 Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Wales.

The works of John Ronald Reuel and Christopher Tolkien are under the copyright of their authors and/or rights holders, including their publishers and the Tolkien Estate.
Quotations from other authors, editors and translators mentioned in the bibliography are under the copyright of their publishers, except for those whose copyright term has ended.
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