The first Devolution Referendum, on St David’s Day 1979, had cultural as well as political effects that can hardly be over-estimated. At a stroke itmade Wales a boring place. It was the moment of truth that utterly destroyed Garlick’s type of nationalism. More than that, it all but obliterated the Anglo-Welsh poets, with the possible exception of R.S. Thomas, as a progressive force in Welsh life.
So the Shadow wins its wager with Imagination, but at the cost of itself being wounded. The final scene of the movement shows Imagination looking for comfort from Garlick, but all it gets is recrimination against the Welsh people:
And likewise a wounded beast
With wings that gulped the air, the Shadow
Dragged itself from the badlands.
`Ho,’ said Imagination
Like the Mariner drinking his blood to speak,
`Where have you come?’
`Going to and fro in the earth,’
The Shadow said,
`Walking up and down upon it.’
`Shadow,’ said Imagination,
`What of my creature Raymond?
Does he ride the storm like Pity,
Like a naked new-born babe? -’
(It was desert, it was dead bones)
`Is he coming to my festival?
I am thirsty. Has he the milk
Of his mother-wit to bring me?’
`He is coming,’ said the Shadow.
`I am loud with pain,’ Imagination cried.
`Has he the flute
Of his silence to soothe me?
Will he heal me like a poet?’
(It was blast, it was whitsun)
In the dull red of the fires
`Look,’ said the Shadow,
`That withered tree. It moves
Towards us, and the lips on its branches
Cry of dishonour, like a grey defilement
Over the land.’
`Is that my creature?
I am listening,’ said Imagination.
`Let him play!’
I can imagine this first movement being staged as a tragic morality play or dance drama. Its tragic affiliations - the scenes in Heaven, à la Book of Job and Goethe’s Faust, the parallels with the Passion of Christ and with the Gododdin and Piers Plowman, even with the Angry Summer - are clearly signalled for those who have ears to hear.
Anyway, the poets have failed - and are failing; and it is left to the painters and visual artists - people like Paul and Peter Davies, Ifor Davies, Iwan Bala and Mary Lloyd Jones - to point a way forward. Paul’s group of artists was called Becca, after the nineteenth-century rioters, `the Daughters of Rebecca’ who in a spirit of high theatre dressed up in drag to smash down the toll-gates that were taking away their livelihood. As we look at his obsessional icons - maps of Wales in every conceivable medium and mood - we lose our superior impatience with them and suddenly realise that
Wales is like perspective, it describes
imagination is using. As in the inside-out
perspective of Chinese silks,
the vanishing point
After the twentieth map, you’re part of
Daughter of Becca, the gate’s waiting.
You’re faced with desolation and hope.
There was an element of absurdity in Paul - `the very last unscheduled appearance of Owain Glyndwr.’ He drove himself into the grave frenetically doing everything he believed in at once. But given all that, what he did, in spite of self-doubt, was to open doors, to make things possible, to celebrate in a creaturely way, humanity and the nation. And that’s why `our Mari’ gives him, through us his fellow wassailers, her gifts of oak-leaves, rose-hips and ivy-flowers. They were real, I put them myself into his grave. And why the poem ends on Christmas morning with a carol to our Mari and her child, the Christ who, as Blake and R.S. Thomas both tell us, is no other than imagination himself. Christ is `my billy’ who gives rose-hips to Paul -
Since he’d concern for the one
Who is what I am, human,
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