Monday, 15 February 2016

Sir Harold Idris Bell (1879 – 1967) – Papyrist and Welsh Scholar

Harold was born on 2nd October 1879 in Epworth, Lincolnshire.  His parents were Charles Christopher Bell and Rachel Bell, nee Hughes, who was of Welsh descent.  He attended Nottingham High School before going on to Oriel College, Oxford in 1897.  He learnt Welsh at the age of 26.

In 1903, Harold joined the staff of the British Museum in the Department of Manuscripts.
He married Mabel Winnifred Ayling in 1911 and the couple had three sons.

During the First World War, Harold edited the Food Supplement of the Daily Review of the Foreign Press.  He received the CBE in 1936 and was knighted in 1946.
Harold died on 22nd January 1967.

Harold’s poem ‘Sonnet Written in Time of War’, translated from the Welsh poem by R. Williams Parry was published in the WW1 Anthology ‘Welsh Poets’ Published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London.

‘Sonnet Written in Time of War’

When comes the day that I must reckoning make

Of all those talents that were lodged with me,

And there arriving where Time’s billows break

Against the headlands of Eternity,

Confess the devious ways by which I came,

The mire and tangle where my feet have stood,

And plead the day that made me dust and flame,

Of sense and nature, and of flesh and blood,

Who knows but He who held the forest dear,

And empty solitudes at shut of eve,

To one who knew no cheer but earthly cheer

Some peaceful, melancholy Hell may give,

Where, memory-laden, every wind shall tell

Tales of earth’s hostel, which I loved so well?


H. Idris Bell – from the Welsh language poem by R. Williams Parry