The Secret Pages: Moel y Gerddi

He followed her as fast as he could … but the greater was his speed, all the further she was from him … Then Pwyll spoke. ‘Maiden, for the sake of him who thou lovest, stay for me.’ ‘I will, gladly,’ said she, ‘and it had been better for the horse hadst thou asked this long since.’
Pwyll Prince of Dyfed. The Mabinogion.
(Translated by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones)

In your sudden fury: stop asking why.
Not expecting anger, and astounded why
could be a bad thing, I had no answer.
Now, Kate (I think, but snub-nose, collar length, blonde)
let me tell you what I, nineteen,
self-consciously reading The Mabinogion,
and not in a team, let along a league,
could not tell you thirty-seven years ago.

why is the first cause of our being here,
itinerant diggers, students, holidaying workers,
sleeping on steel bunks in a hay loft.
We grub at the soil for the what, how, who and when.
The where of the round house is well-defined:
nails it to ‘the flat top of a low ridge
skirting the western flank of Moel y Gerddi hill’.
Although we must admit the iron age where –
with the sea at the base of Harlech’s rock
and no Harlech or dick-swinging Edward –
is not the where of the 1980 excavation,
itself a where before Lady Diana and public feelings.

why, contingent on those other questions,
is the continual chant of good history,
that can take a mass of stones to the Proceedings
of the Prehistoric Society
We beg of the past, which recedes faster as we advance,
a pause, a chance of conversation,
in which we may learn something of its errands.
Becoming, in our obsession, three-year-olds
remorselessly asking with scant thought for others.

But three-year-olds learn so much about the world.


The Mabinogion: a collection of mediaeval Welsh stories.


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