Monday, 15 February 2016

Welsh Poets in The First World War

'Welsh Poets’ published by Erskine Macdonald, London WC1 in October 1917

A slim volume of poetry, put together by A.G. Prys-Jones, with a fantastic list of poets, many of whom I had not heard of:

H. Idris Bell (1879 – 1967)

Wilma Buckley

Hylda C. Cole

E.J. Francis Davies

Oliver Davies

W.H. Davies

R. Edwards-James

R.A. Griffith (‘Elphin’) – a poet and playwright, won prizes at Eistedfodd 1899 and 1900

T. Gwynn-Jones (1871 – 1949)

Elinor Jenkins (see Female Poets of the First World War –

P.M. Jones

Ellen Lloyd-Williams

Hon. Evan Morgan (1893 – 1949)

A.G. Prys-Jones (1888 – 1987)

Cecil Roberts (1892 – 1976)

R. Silyn Roberts (1871 – 1930)

Brian Rhys

Ernest Rhys (1859 – 1946)

Gilbert Thomas (1891 – 1978)

Alfred Williams (1877 – 1930)

D.G. Williams

Iolo Aneurin Williams (1890 – 1962)

I’m having some problems finding biographical information on several of the lesser-known poets listed, so if anyone can help please get in touch.   Those, such as Cecil Roberts, who are more famous will be the subject of separate posts.

Thomas Gwynn Jones (1871 – 1949) – poet, writer, translator
Born Betws-yn-Rhos, Denbighshire, Wales.  Parents Isaac Jones and Jane, nee Roberts. Educated Denbighshire and Abergele.  M. Margaret Jane Davies 1899 – three children.  Won Chair at National Eisteddfod 1902.  Opponent of war.

Poem included in ‘Poems of the War’ in ‘Welsh poems of the twentieth Century in English verse’ edited by Sir Harold Idris Bell (Hughes, Wrexham, 1925).

Hon. Evan Morgan, 2nd Viscount Tredegar (1893 – 1949) – poet, writer

Born 13th July 1893. Parents Courtenay Morgan, 1st Viscount Tredegar of Tredegar Park, Monmouthshire and his wife Lady Katherine Carnegie.   He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards during the First World War and was a high-ranking officer in MI8 in the Second World War.
His WW1 poetry collections were:

‘Fragments’, Erskine Macdonald, 1916

‘Gold and ochre’, Erskine Macdonald, 1917
And his poems were published in two WW1 poetry anthologies.

Arthur Glyn Prys- Jones (1888 – 1987) – Welsh
Born in Denbigh.  Educated Llandovery College and Jesus College, Oxford.  Became a teacher.  Married Elizabeth Gibbon.

‘Poems of Wales’, first published in 1923; Third Edition published by Blackwell, Oxford, 1925.  His poems were included in three WW1 Anthologies.

R. Silyn Roberts (1871 – 1930) – Poet, Methodist Minister
Born Llanllyfni, Caernarfonshire, 28th March 1871.   Worked as a quarryman before studying at University College North Wales and Bala Theological College.

Awarded the Eisteddfod Crown in 1902 for one of his poems.

Married Mary Perry.  Lectured in America and Canada raising funds for the eradication of Tuberculosis in Wales.  Organised training for disabled ex-servicemen in Wales.

Died Bangor, 15th August 1930.

Ernest Percival Rhys (1859 – 1946) – Welsh writer and poet
Born in Islington, London in 1859, Ernest grew up in Carmarthen and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.   He met Irish writer Grace Little (1865 – 1929) at a garden party given by Yeats and they were married in 1891.  The couple had three children – Brian, Megan and Stella - and lived in Hendon, where they entertained literary people of that era to tea on Sundays.  Ernest worked for the publishers J.M. Dent and Sons.  It was he who instigated and edited the ‘Everyman Library’ series of classic works published at reasonable prices.   Grace died in 1929 while accompanying her husband on a lecture tour of America. Ernest died in 1946.

Ernest Rhys’s WW1 poetry collections were:
‘The Leaf Burners and other poems’, (Dent, 1918) – which is available as a download -
And ‘Rhymes for Everyman’ (Lovat Dickson, 1933).

His poems were included in two WW1 Anthologies as well as in numerous magazines and newspapers.

‘Lost in France – Jo’s Requiem’ by Ernest Rhys

He had the ploughman's strength

 in the grasp of his hand;

 he could see a crow

 three miles away,

 and the trout beneath the stone.

 He could hear the green oats growing,

 and the south-west wind making rain.

 He could hear the wheel upon the hill

 when it left the level road.

 He could make a gate, and dig a pit,

 and plough as straight as stone can fall.

 And he is dead.

Gilbert Oliver Thomas (1891 – 1978) – poet, essayist, critic

Born in Coventry on 10th July 1891.  During the First World War Gilbert was a pacifist and was imprisoned as a Conscientious Objector.
’Poems 1912 – 1919’ Swarthmore P., 1920

‘Towards the dawn, and other poems’, Headley, 1918
‘The voice of peace and other poems’, Chapman and Hall, 1914 and his poems were published in three WW1 Anthologies.

‘The Ploughman’ by Gilbert Oliver Thomas

I wandered on through field and fold,

The way was lone and chill.

Towards the East a mist lay rolled

Upon a distant hill —

That hill which once with boyish stride

I oft would climb to see

The dawn unfold the portals wide

Into infinity.

And from infinity no breath

Wakened my soul this morn;

As in a dream that whispereth

Vaguely of things forlorn,

I stumbled on — till lo, above

A gleam of sunlight kissed

The shoulder of the hill, and clove

A pathway through the mist.

And in that sudden cleft of light

Hewn through a world of cloud,

My trembling eyes beheld a sight

That made my heart beat loud;

For toiling there unseen till now

And toiling gently still,

A ploughman drove his early plough

In patience on the hill.

Oh sudden gleam too swiftly past!

Oh sudden gleam of red!

A moment now it seemed to cast

A halo round his head.

But now it flickered and grew dim,

Grew dim and died away;

Once more the mist enveloped him

Within its trackless gray.

Yet light of heart I journeyed now;

For, though once more the hill

Was lost, that unsuspected plough

Was surely plodding still —

As, in the mists of doubt that coil

Around the soul's high slope,

Unseen, undreamt, there still may toil

The patient plough of Hope.

Alfred Williams (1877 – 1930) – Welsh
Born near Swindon in South Martson, Wiltshire on 7th February 1877 and died on 10th April 1930.

‘Selected Poems’, Erskine Macdonald, 1926

‘War Sonnets and Songs’, Erskine Macdonald, 1916

 Iolo Aneurin Williams (1890 – 1962) - Welsh

Born in Middlesborough, Yorkshire on 18th June 1890, his father was the Labour Member of Parliament Aneurin Williams and his mother was Helen Elizabeth, nee Pattinson.  He had one sibling – Helen Ursula Williams.

Iolo Aneurin was educated at Rugby School before going on to Cambridge.  In 1911, the Williams family were living in Hindhead, Surrey.

During the First World War Iolo Aneurin was a Captain in the West Yorkshire Regiment and served in France and Flanders.    In 1920, he married an American – Francion Elinor Rixon from Colorado, USA and they had a son and two daughters.
Iolo Aneurin Williams died on 18th January 1962.

His WW1 poetry collections were:

‘New Poems’ Methuen 1919

‘Poems’, Methuen 1915

And his poems were featured in seven First World War poetry Anthologies.

Sources:   Catherine W. Reilly ‘English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography’ (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)
‘Welsh Poets’ published by Erskine Macdonald, London WC1