Like many people here probably, I’ve always loved the hymn tune “Cwm Rhondda”.
When I started learning Welsh, I thought it would be a nice idea to try to learn the Welsh words.
That’s when I discovered the situation wasn’t 100% straightforward. What I didn’t know then, but probably people here do know, is that the Welsh words normally sung to the tune of “Cwm Rhondda” are from a completely different hymn by a different author.
The English words start “Guide me o thou Great Jehovah” (or “Redeemer”) and have the well-known rousing chorus “Bread of Heaven”. There is a Welsh version of that hymn (although the translation is far from literal - and I think the Welsh version came first), although apparently it’s normally sung to a different tune.
It’s all explained quite well in the Wikipedia page:
However, today, by chance, I found this quite interesting Youtube video about it:
As well as some history, it also includes English and Welsh versions, with bi-lingual subtitles.
I have a lovely CD (“We’ll Keep A Welcome”) of Welsh songs and hymns (in both English and Cymraeg) sung by the incomparable Bryn Terfel. Cwm Rhondda is included, – four verses, the first in English, the second and third in Cymraeg, and the last one once again in English. The CD “sleeve” has all the lyrics!
The English verses have the classic William Williams words – starting with “Guide me, O thou Great Jehovah!” and “When I tread the verge of Jordan”. The second of the Welsh verses starts with the words “Agor y ffynhonnau melys”-- as identified in the YouTube video and the Wikipedia article, as being written by Ann Griffiths. However, _Verse 2 is also by Ann Griffiths (according to the CD sleeve) and these lovely words do not appear anywhere in either the YouTube video or the Wikipedia article. Here they are…
Rhosyn Saron yw ei enw,
Gwyn a gwridog, teg o bryd;
Ar ddeng mil y mae’n rhagori
O wrthrychau penna’r byd:
Ffrind pechadur, ffrind perhadur,
Dyma’r llywydd ar y mor!
Thank you @brynle . I think the first three of those verses are the ones one most often hears, aren’t they?
I find it interesting that some choirs / singers (several examples on Youtube) like to sing the verses in English, and the chorus in Welsh, or will perhaps alternate English and Welsh verses.
It’s slightly bizarre in one sense, since the English and Welsh are actually from two different hymns.
But since it’s a belting tune, and each set of words is beautiful in its own way, I doubt if anyone cares.
If you think of hymns in English that you know, the language is often quite archaic and this will be true of hymns in Welsh as well. But there is always beauty in the language so I try to enjoy the language for its own sake and don’t necessarily try to translate. To maintain the beauty of poetry from any language to another is a very refined art and, as you say, cannot be literal. I am English and a professional organist and singing teacher. My pupils love to sing in Welsh and do so very well. It is the deeper meaning and the beauty of the combined words and music that matters. I could recite now the text of the song Myfanwy not really knowing the exact meaning of it but still delighting in the joy of the sound. Welsh is a beautiful, lyrical and descriptive language.
Diolch yn fawr iawn a pawb. Although my family left Wales several generations back, on my father’s side, we still considered this to be ‘The Jones Family Hymn’, sung at all weddings, funerals etc, in the English version (unfortunately).
I’ve learned a lot from this most interesting thread. Thanks again.
I have no problem with that, partly as a fan of LOTR, and partly because, at least according to some sources, my surname (probably Old English in origin) might have meant “Elf Wood” at one time. That may or may not be true, but I’m happy enough to go along with it. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go and check that no pesky little Hobbits have strayed into my territory…