Melin Trefin … centenary

… The stone at rest that watches the place
in the thrashing rain and the wind

Two years ago, I wrote about the poet William Williams Crwys, and his much-loved poem Melin Trefin.  See my original article Trefin Mill which was prompted by the visit of fellow poet Chris Hemingway to Trefin in 2016. This May, I had the pleasure of visiting the Pembrokeshire village of Trefin myself … and the mill that inspired the reverend-bard-archdruid Crwys to write the poem … in 1918.  It seemed an even more meaningful occasion, therefore, in this the 100th anniversary year of the poem.

Here is a photographic record of my visit, with excerpts from the poem in Cymraeg, together with my translation:

Nid yw’r Felin heno’n malu
Yn Nhrefin ym min y môr,
Trodd y merlyn olaf adref
Dan ei bwn o drothwy’r ddôr,
Ac mae’r rhod fu gynt yn chwyrnu
Ac yn rhygnu drwy y fro,
Er pan farw’r hen felinydd
Wedi rhoi ei holaf dro.

The mill is not grinding tonight
in Trefin at the edge of the sea.
The last pony, from beneath its burden,
turned from the threshold towards home
and the wheel that used to rumble
and grumble through the area
has, since the old miller died,
made its last turn.

IMG_6104

IMG_6157
Trefin Mill on the North Pembrokeshire Coast

 

IMG_6159

IMG_6141
‘The mill is not grinding tonight’

IMG_6127

IMG_6122
‘at Trefin at the edge of the sea’.
IMG_6114
‘The kindly stream still runs on’
IMG_6113
‘… past the bare forehead of the house’
IMG_6112
May was the perfect month to visit – with sea pinks (thrift), stonecrop, bladder campion, bird’s foot trefoil and kidney vetch, as well as red campion, bluebells and cow parsley adorning the glorious banks and verges of Pembrokeshire

 

IMG_6115

Rhed y ffrwd garedig eto
Gyda thalcen noeth y ty,
Ond ddaw ned i’r fal ai farlys,
A’r hen olwyn fawr ni thry,
Lle doi gwenith gwyn Llanrhiain
Derfyn haf yn llwythi cras,
Ni cheir mwy on tres o wymon
Gydag ambell frwynen las.

The kindly stream still runs on
past the bare forehead of the house
but it no longer comes to mill the barley
and the big old wheel won’t turn again.
Where the wheat of Llanrhiain
lay at summer’s end
now there’s only a trace of seaweed
and a few green reeds.

 

 

IMG_6098
‘Where the wheat of Llanrhiain
lay at summer’s end’

Looking towards the fields of neighbouring Llanrhian parish, from the village of Trefin. Cereal crops grown in the fields will have been harvested and carted from there to Trefin for grinding into flour.  IMG_6097

Segur faen sy’n gwylio’r fangre
Yn y curlaw mawr a’r gwynt,
Di-lythyren garreg goffa
O’r amseroedd difyr gynt,
Ond’ does yma neb yn malu,
Namyn amser swrth a’r hin
Wrthi’n chwalu ac yn malu,
Malu’r felin yn Nhrefin.

The stone at rest that watches the place
in the thrashing rain and the wind
is a letterless memorial
to the jollity of former times.
Nobody is milling here now.
It is a time of dereliction
– the grinding down
of the mill at Trefin.

IMG_6103
Entering the village of Trefin
IMG_6088
Middle section of the tapestry commemorating the famous poem, curated by Val Dubbens and displayed in the chapel for its 175th anniversary (1843 – 2018)
IMG_6084
Inside the Chapel at Trefin, recently restored
IMG_6095
The chapel at Trefin stands on Druid’s Hill, probably named after William Williams Crwys – minister, bard and archdruid (who, thirty years after writing this poem, inducted Princess Elizabeth into the Gorsedd of Bards at the General Eisteddfod held Bridgend in 1948  … well before her coronation as Queen).

 

 

 

IMG_6100
Capel Trefin

IMG_6085

IMG_6087
The whole of the fine tapestry, featuring the chapel, mill and lines from the poem. The tapestry was curated by Val Dubbens.
IMG_6160
Roadsign next to the chapel, commemorating William Williams Crwys
IMG_6083
Sign outside the chapel
IMG_6138
A stanza from the poem, on information board on the outer wall of the ruined mill
IMG_6140
Illustration from the information board
IMG_6136
English translation from information board
IMG_6135
Information board on the outer wall of the mill
IMG_6137
Gwybodaeth am y felin – yn Gymraeg

                                                                                                                                        

 

Trefin Mill – William Williams Crwys

I was recently prompted by musician and fellow-poet, Chris Hemingway, to find the text of a poem in Cymraeg by William Williams (1875 – 1968), bardic name Crwys, and to translate it into English. William Williams Crwys

Chris had become aware of the existence of the poem – Melin Trefin – on his visit to Trefin – roughly half way between St Davids and Fishguard on the north Pembrokeshire Coast.  He asked Facebook friends if anyone knew of a translation. That was all the prompting I needed. Trefin Mill

To my shame, I didn’t know the poem itself although I was acquainted with the name William Williams Crwys – an Archdruid (chief bard of the Gorsedd of Bards) and three-times winner of The Crown at the National Eisteddfod. One of the greats. Here is a picture of HM The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and Crwys at the National Eisteddfod at Aberpennar (Mountain Ash) on 6 August 1947 Princess Elizabeth and Archdruid William Williams Crwys.

In fact, the poem is well loved by Cymry Cymraeg … and came 21st in a BBC Wales online poll of Welsh-speakers’ favourite poems in 2003.   I soon tracked the text down:

Melin Trefin

Nid yw’r Felin heno’n malu
Yn Nhrefin ym min y môr,
Trodd y merlyn olaf adref
Dan ei bwn o drothwy’r ddôr,
Ac mae’r rhod fu gynt yn chwyrnu
Ac yn rhygnu drwy y fro,
Er pan farw’r hen felinydd
Wedi rhoi ei holaf dro.

Rhed y ffrwd garedig eto
Gyda thalcen noeth y ty,
Ond ddaw ned i’r fal ai farlys,
A’r hen olwyn fawr ni thry,
Lle doi gwenith gwyn Llanrhiain
Derfyn haf yn llwythi cras,
Ni cheir mwy on tres o wymon
Gydag ambell frwynen las.

Segur faen sy’n gwylio’r fangre
Yn y curlaw mawr a’r gwynt,
Di-lythyren garreg goffa
O’r amseroedd difyr gynt,
Ond’ does yma neb yn malu,
Namyn amser swrth a’r hin
Wrthi’n chwalu ac yn malu,
Malu’r felin yn Nhrefin.

Here is my translation – aiming more to be faithful to the Cymraeg than to be a poetic rendering:

Trefin Mill

The mill is not grinding tonight
in Trefin at the edge of the sea.
The last pony, from beneath its burden,
turned from the threshold towards home
and the wheel that used to rumble
and grumble through the area
has, since the old miller died,
made its last turn.

The kindly stream still runs on
past the bare forehead of the house
but it no longer comes to mill the barley
and the big old wheel won’t turn again.
Where the wheat of Llanrhiain
lay at summer’s end
now there’s only a trace of seaweed
and a few green reeds.

The stone at rest that watches the place
in the thrashing rain and the wind
is a letterless memorial
to the jollity of former times.
Nobody is milling here now.
It is a time of dereliction
– the grinding down
of the mill at Trefin.

Notes:

It’s virtually impossible to render the musicality of the Welsh, with all the alliteration and rhyme … the cynghanedd or chiming harmonies for which poetry in Cymraeg is justly famous.

The phrase “mynd am dro” – literally to go for a turn, is the common idiomatic way of saying “to go for a walk”. So the Welsh for a wheel turning for the last time carries in it the idea of the miller making his last turn too ie going for his last walk, or even giving his last performance (as we call an act on stage a “turn”).

Thus the mill and the miller are one unit, and hence their fate is linked, and hence the mill personifies the miller. So, when the miller does his final “turn” so does the millwheel – and so does the pony that turns the grindstone. Pony and man slough off their “burden” and “go home”.

The millstream that powered the wheel is also personified. It is “kindly” – suggesting the miller was too. (I hesitated to use the word “grumbled” in association with the sound of the turning millwheel, because it was clearly out of character with the miller, but the Welsh has two chiming, onomatopoeic words and I needed something similar to accompany “rumbled”).

While the “kindly stream” no longer visits the mill (the millrace presumably dries up), the (main) stream still passes the “bare forehead” of the (mill)house … again allying building to miller and vice versa.

In the final stanza, there is a feeling that the mill begins to tumble down, on the death of the miller – to fall into ruin even as the miller’s remains are consigned to the earth. Grain is no longer being ground down; body and building are being broken down now.

The millstone bears no inscription but acts as a gravestone for mill and miller, exposed to the elements – the wind and the thrashing rain). As a translator, I was pleased to come up with a word to describe the rain beating down that sounds so much like “threshing”.

Alas, the closest I can come to emulating the cynghanedd is in the proximity of “letterless” and “jollity” with their repeated t and l sounds. Saying those two words with a lilting Welsh accent that gives a long stress to the first syllable, provides some impression of the satisfying effect a poet can achieve with the cynghanedd.

I found the exercise very enjoyable. Thanks Chris!