Voici le bois de Mametz.


It was foolish to try for the woods today,

but we walked through bullets of rain

bareheaded beneath the talking oaks,

whose leaves jangled,

as we turned our faces towards the wet light


Ceux-ci sont des arbres galloisants,

des chênes, des noisettes, des hêtres …


These are Welsh speaking trees,

the oak, the hazel, the beech;

thickset teenagers, bold as bayonets

their leafy branches sieving the rain.


In winter, the forest floor

is still pocked by shells

– but today they’re wired by summer brambles,

whose spirals hide the scars,

and smooth away the cruel past

where trunks of men were broken like the trees

in a storm of steel …


Écoute! Ici, on peut, à peu près,

entendre les racines en s’enfoncant par terre

où se couchent les Gallois …


Under this earth, the roots of Mamets

cradle each helmet like an egg shell,

weave through shoes eased from soldiers’ feet,

scratching their ribs beneath the soil’s quiet caress.


Their blood still feeds these trees …


C’est ici le mémorial gallois, n’est-ce pas?


And today, as we tread softly

on our fore-fathers’ bones,

we walk their memories once more,

lest the oak and beech lose their voice.


A century gone, since the Welshmen claimed this wood,

and their grandchildren still return,

because they feel they should.


Ifor ap Glyn
Bardd Cenedlaethol Cymru | National Poet of Wales

(This is a poem by National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn in memory of Capt. Dafydd Jones, and the hundreds of Welshmen who died in Mametz Wood and who lie there still. English translation by clare potter)

Back to Ifor ap Glyn: National Poet of Wales 2016 – 2022