John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Poet's Corner: Tale of a Wayside Inn (Trafferth Mewn Tafarn)

Tale of a Wayside Inn (Trafferth Mewn Tafarn)

With one servant, I went down
To a sportive sort of town
Where a Welshman might secure
Comely welcome, and pleasure.
There we found the book to sign
In the inn, and ordered wine.

But whatever did I see
But the loveliest lady
Blooming beautiful and bright,
Blossom stemming from sunlight,
Graceful as the gossamer.
I said, "Let me banquet her!"
Feasting's a fine way, it seems,
For fulfilling young men's dreams.

So, unshy, she took her seat
At my side, and we did eat,
Sipped our wine, and smiled and dallied
Like a man and maid, new-married.
Bold I was, but whispering,
And the others heard nothing.

Troth and tryst we pledged, to keep
When the others were asleep.
I should find my way, and come
Through the darkness to her room.
Love would haul my steps aright
Down the hallways of the night;
Love would steer my steps, - alas,
This was not what came to pass.

For, by some outrageous miss,
what I got was not a kiss,
But a stubble-whiskered cheek
And a triple whiskey-reek,
Not one Englishman, but three,
(What a Holy Trinity!)
Diccon, 'Enry, Jerk-off Jack,
Each one pillowed on his pack.

One of them let out a yell,
"What's that thing I think I smell?
there's a Welshman must have hid
In the closet or under t'bed,
Come to cut our throats with knive,
Guard your wallets and your lives,
They're all thieves, beyond all doubt,
Throw the bloody bugger out!"

None too nimble for my need,
First I found how shins will bleed
When you bark them in your haste
On a stool that's been misplaced
By some ostler-stupid fool,
Then the sawney of a stool
Squealed its pig-stuck tattle-tale
After my departing trail.

By good luck, I never got
Wet-foot from the chamber-pot.
That was all I saved myself,
Knocked my noggin on a shelf,
Overturned the table-trestles,
Down came all the pans and kettles.
As I dove to outer dark,
All the dogs began to bark.

Asses bray, and scullions rouse
Every sleeper in the house.
I could hear the hunt come round me,
Scowl-faced scoundrels, till they found me.
I could feel their stones and sticks,
So I clasped my crucifix,
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu dear,
Don't let people catch me here!

Since my prayer was strong, I came
Through the mercy of His name
Safely to my room at last,
All my perils over-passed.
No girl's love to ease my plight,
Only God's that dreadful night,
To the saints be brought the praise,
And the Good Lord mend my wicked ways.

Dafydd ap Gwilym (ca.1315/1320 – ca.1350/1370),
Trans. Rolfe Humphries (1894 – 1969)

This is not, I'm told, a literal translation of this poem, but it maintains the same metrical pattern and is said to be faithful to the spirit of the original. A more literal translation can be found here, but as it doesn't contain the phrase "Jerk-off Jack," it's clearly inferior.

Tags: poet's corner

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