Joseph Biddulph

Joseph Makes Some Comments on 'Anglo-Welsh Poetry'

     On the subject of the designation "Anglo-Welsh" re. Henry Vaughan the Silurist: I'm not sure if the category carries any meaning. Is Walter Scott a "Scottish" or "Anglo-Scottish" writer, or Jonathan Swift "Hiberno-English"? These are idle questions. Writing in English is part of English Literature: if they write in Latin, the same people with the same ideas become part of Latin Literature, and so on.


     Hard to take that Dylan Thomas's work is "English Literature written in Wales", as it is so self-consciously Welsh in attitude and content, but nevertheless it is Welsh content delivered in the manner and with the genius of the English language. What demonstrated this to me was J . W. Binns, The Latin Poetry of English Poets, where (fortunately with the help of literal translations) we can see the same individuals wearing different hats, the Latin often being racier and more Sallust-like, filled with allusions to the Classical literature of Rome, as compared with the English poems produced in the literary milieu of the period, however "Classical" we fancy it to be. The different works fill different cultural niches.


    Henry Vaughan might be writing with a Welsh accent, but his work in the Saesneg stands with the "Metaphysicals" of England rather than with the bardic traditions still current in the Cymraeg. The difficulties experienced in producing the true Cynghanedd in the Saesneg (as distinct from a a pale imitation using limited assonance, internal rhyme, etc.) should illustrate the point: no poem ever produced in English could fulfil the artistic canons of the Caerwys Eisteddfod or any other court of poetic form in the Welsh language. Although the Welsh language poet is not obliged to write in Cynghanedd, the Cynghanedd is just over the hill, so to speak, like Carmarthenshire, and roots the writer in the tradition.


     Though we are scarcely aware of it, we have a similar tradition for the English language, to which we subscribe or consciously rebel against, and although we might vehemently deny it, there is always the spirit of Blank Verse and the Common Metre hovering in the shadows of our consciousness, an awareness of the metrical possibilities of the genius of the language.