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The Holly Grove | by Giles Watson's poetry and prose
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The Holly Grove


Y Llwyn Celyn


Grove of holly, verdant in cold,

Castle of berries, coral-coloured,

Comely choir none can uproot,

Watertight bower, tower upright.

Within, my golden girl inspires;

On its leaves, spikes and spurs.


I? A man whose way traverses

Hillsides, woods with weeping tresses,

To find your fortress, edifice fair!

Through fields and woods I wandered far.

Who ever found, in winter’s midst

Green May alive and wrapped in mist?

I found today – I’ll not forget –

A holly grove where rooks took flight,

A bower of love, battlements of leaves

Arrayed in May’s strange livery,

A columned choir where voluntaries weird

Are piped through stems into the world,

Store house of song, over hostile hollows

Snow shrouded. Still and hallowed.


Fine workmanship, drawn more deftly

Than Robert’s landscapes, shaded softly;

Than Hywel Fychan more profound

(Whose forms and metres make us proud,

Who chose the Cynghanedd to praise

The woodland angel’s perfect poise

And splendid branches by the verge

With hair of lichens. Verse too vague!)

Chamber of birds born of heaven,

Arching temple, gleaming haven.

My cabin leaks and drips all night;

The holly bower is watertight.

Edged with steel, the leaves unwithered

Rarely rusted, never weathered.

From here to Severn , no old goat

Would chew on these, his teeth to grate

A muzzle of spines . Night looms long

And moorland mist hangs in the lung,

But wind and frost will not deprive

The handsome holly of his tithe:

While birches wither, oak trees rot,

Holly becomes my Camelot.


- Dafydd ap Gwilym, paraphrased by Giles Watson.


Solstice greetings to all my friends on Flickr.

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Taken on December 20, 2008