Quotes about music from Welsh writers/artists/etc?

Haia! My dad’s enlisted my help finding a quote for a project he’s working on and I’m hoping someone here can help point me in good directions.

Background: the Episcopal (Anglican) church where I grew up (in Maine, USA) has come into possession of a harpsichord that’s being spruced up and will be repainted. Dad is enamored of the writing and calligraphy of David Jones, and initially wanted to find a Jones quote relating to music and/or the church that a local calligrapher could adorn the harpsichord with in a calligraphy style after Jones’s work.

After failing to find an appropriate quote, he asked me if I could search out something - in English but from a Welsh source (writer, poet, musician, etc). It would need to be brief in order to fit. I am honestly not sure where to start other than flailing around on Google and am hoping for suggestions as to authors to look at, sources for exploring Welsh authors’ writing, or even specific pieces if folks have any they can think of that might contain a useful gem. Any suggestions for tackling this quest are greatly appreciated!


Can you tell us more about David Jones? What’s he known for? What are his dates, location, field of expertise? It might help us to help you.

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I can’t suggest anything specific, but you might want to look at some of the poems of R.S.Thomas (poet and Anglican priest) - he was prolific and there are lots available to read on the internet.

David Jones’ work tends to be quite rambling so I imagine finding a suitable brief quote would be difficult.

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@margaretnock, here’s a visual of his calligraphy:

Jones was a Welsh painter and poet, mostly watercolor, but from what I understand he was sort of a polymath. He fought in WWI and was one of the group of wartime poets emerging from the British army, alongside Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, etc.

I don’t find him an easy read, so I agree @siaronjames, I’m not terribly surprised Dad couldn’t find something there! Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll follow it up.


I’ve passed your query on to @davidhamilton who lives in Ontario and regularly plays the church organ. He said he knows someone who may be able to help.

I have asked a friend of mine, who plays and owns a harpsichord. However, they were not able to supply an answer to your question. Sorry!

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Diolch am drio David! Thanks for trying :slight_smile:

Dim problem. Hapus i drio.

So sorry I missed this earlier - thank you for trying!

No problem.

You might to look at Dafydd ap Gwilyim’s ‘Offeren y Llwyn’ (‘The Woodland Mass’) - the songs of a thrush & a nightingale are described in terms of church music . Dafydd is one of the greatest poets of mediaeval Europe, and one of the greatest poets of Britain. Another of his poems that might be a possibility is ‘Yr Ehedydd’ (The Skylark), and there are poems on the mistle thrush and other birds. There are (selected) translations of Dafydd’s poems by Daniel Huws (these are the best) & Rachel Bromwich, and Tony Conran includes some translations of Dafydd in his anthology of Welsh verse.

There a couple (and maybe more - it is a long time since I read him) poems by Vernon Watkins that might be of interest: ‘Air’ and ‘Second Air’ - they are written in brief, short-lined quatrains.

There’s not, I think, much mention of music (except for bugles and trumpets blowing) in the poetry of David Jones, though, as I recall he does mention a Welsh soldier singing ‘Dafydd y garreg wen’ (but I might be confusing him here with Ivor Gurney). There’s a mention of music (’ good song the fathers sang, the aboriginal and variant alliterations known to each small pagus’) in ‘The Tribune’s Visitation’, which is a stunning poem.

I don’t now whether Edward Thomas counts as a Welsh poet, though I think he should be: his parents were Welsh-speakers, though he was brought up in England and in English, and never learned to speak Welsh, though he knew some. But I think he had a Welsh ear - he is the most delicately musical of any British poet. You might find something in his work.

Jones wrote what is to my mind the greatest (epic-length) poem to come out of the First World War, ‘In Parenthesis’; and another very good long poem ‘The Anathemata’. The BBC made a recording of parts of the former, with both Richard Burton and Dylan Thomas reading. It is wonderful, and you may be able to lay your hands on it still. He also wrote a number of shorter (though not short poems), the best of which, and one of the best middle-length poems of the last century, is ‘The Tribune’s Visitation’. He was also a water-colourist, a wood-engraver (he made some extraordinary wood-engravings to go with ‘The Ancient Mariner’), and calligrapher. There was a Tate Gallery exhibition of his work some years ago.

@tim-harris I’m sorry I just saw this - I’ve been away from the forum recently. Thank you so much for the recommendations!

Another source for a quotation might be the Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English - it looks as if it’s out of print but it’s available online here: https://archive.org/details/oxfordbookofwels00jonerich/page/n9/mode/2up

If you can’t find the poems by Vernon Watkins, I could copy them (or the stanzas that are the most suitable) out, though both are fairly brief poems. Watkins was a friend of Dylan Thomas, and a very fine poet. He was a Christian, which may be a recommendation in your case, and his poetry has a singing purity.

This is all incredibly helpful. I’m with my dad for the Thanksgiving holiday and am passing this all along - he’s utterly delighted! Thanks to everyone.

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Brennan’s father Bruce here. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions and your erudition. I will follow these pathways to a suitable quotation. Best wishes to all.