Archive for January 14th, 2018

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Ode to the Comet by Iolo Goch

Which appeared in the Month of March, A.D. 1402*.

’Bout the stars’ nature and their hue
Much has been said, both false and true;
They’re wondrous through their countenance—
Signs to us in the blue expanse.
The first that came, to merit praise,
Was that great star of splendid rays,
From a fair country seen of old
High in the East, a mark of gold;
Conveying to the sons of Earth
News of the King of glory’s birth.
In the advantage I had share,
Though some to doubt the event will dare,
That Christ was born from Mary maid,
A merciful and timely aid,
With his veins’ blood to save on high
The righteous from the enemy.
The second, a right glorious lamp,
Of yore went over Uther’s camp.
There as it flam’d distinct in view
Merddin amongst the warrior crew
Standing, with tears of anguish, thought
Of the dire act on Emrys wrought,
And he caus’d Uther back to turn,
The victory o’er the foe to earn;
From anger to revenge to spring
Is with the frank a common thing.
Arthur the generous, bold and good,
Was by that comet understood.
Man to be cherish’d well and long,
Foretold through ancient Bardic song:
With ashen shafted lance’s thrust
He shed his foe’s blood on the dust.
The third to Gwynedd’s hills was born
By time and tempest-fury worn,
Similar to the rest it came,
In origin and look the same,
Powerfully lustrous, yellow, red
Both, both as to its beam and head.
The wicked far about and near
Enquire of me, who feel no fear,
For where it comes there luck shall fall,
What means the hot and starry ball?
I know and can expound aright
The meaning of the thing of light:
To the son of the prophecy
Its ray doth steel or fire imply;
There has not been for long, long time
A fitting star to Gwynedd’s clime,
Except the star this year appearing,
Intelligence unto us bearing;
Gem to denote we’re reconcil’d
At length with God the undefil’d.
How beauteous is that present sheen,
Of the excessive heat the queen;
A fire upmounting ’fore our face,
Shining on us God’s bounteous grace;
For where they sank shall rise once more
The diadem and laws of yore.
’Tis high ’bove Mona in the skies,
In the angelic squadron’s eyes;
A golden pillar hangs it there,
A waxen column of the air.
We a fair gift shall gain ere long,
Either a pope or Sovereign strong;
A King, who wine and mead will give,
From Gwynedd’s land we shall receive;
The Lord shall cease incens’d to be,
And happy times cause Gwynedd see,
Fame to obtain by dint of sword,
Till be fulfill’d the olden word.

*Translator’s Note: This piece appears to have been written at the period when Glendower had nearly attained the summit of his greatness; the insurrection which he commenced in September, 1400, by sacking and burning the town of Ruthin, having hitherto sustained no check whatever. In the present poem his bard hails the appearance of the Comet as a divine prognostic of the eventual success of the Welsh Hero, and of his elevation to the throne of Britain.

From: Borrow, George, Welsh Poems and Ballads, 1915, Jarrold & Sons: London, pp. 34-36.

Date: c1402 (original in Welsh); c1860 (translation in English)

By: Iolo Goch (c1320-c1402)

Translated by: George Henry Borrow (1803-1881)