Monday, July 30, 2012

Cwm Rhondda - Bread of Heaven

We've now watched pieces of the Olympics Opening Ceremonies a few times on our DVR with a those of our children who missed it or don't have TV access.  My wife asked me if I could find what that music was with the whistling. So there I was applying my expert googling skills trying to find it and seeing a lot of reviews of that Opening Ceremony. The best was that some Americans were confused about why Kenneth Branagh was dressed as Abraham Lincoln. My kids thought he looked like Brigham Young. And you have to admit all those guys kind of looked like Mormon missionaries of the 1830s.

Anyway, I avoided the forehead-slap when I realized, at the exact moment my boy said, "They just announced that song. It's 'Caliban's Dream.,'" that it would likely be advertised on the iTunes store. Sure enough, there it was front and center. I bought it for $1.29 along with the children's choirs singing their English, Irish (Northern), Scottish, and Welsh anthems. I've already blogged on the moving Jerusalem themes in English culture. Now, it's time again for the Welsh.

We Mormons know the Hymn as "Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah" #83. This is a slightly different English version than what they sing in England and even Wales. According to Wikipedia, the Hymn was used early in both Welsh and English because there were so many English-speaking people who came into the valleys to mine the Cambrian coal. In fact, it's a little odd that the traditional Welsh name of the hymn is "Cwm Rhondda" named for where it was written in one of the green valleys turned black by industrialization.

Here is the English version known in Britain, the first verse performed by the Welsh children for the Olympics. As my musically-gifted vocalist daughter noted with surprise, the children were singing parts in harmony and in tune. I responded, "They're Welsh!":

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan's side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee. 

I love the "bread of heaven" line, as well as "the crystal fountain/Whence the healing stream shall flow." And due to the magic of Wikipedia, I can show here the original Welsh and a side-by-side more literal translation into English. The English does not come out in meter, but you can sense the musical poetry of the Welsh:

Arglwydd, arwain trwy'r anialwch,
Fi, bererin gwael ei wedd,
Nad oes ynof nerth na bywyd
Fel yn gorwedd yn y bedd:
Hollalluog, Hollalluog,
Ydyw'r Un a'm cwyd i'r lan.
Ydyw'r Un a'm cwyd i'r lan

Agor y ffynhonnau melus
'N tarddu i maes o'r Graig y sydd;
Colofn dân rho'r nos i'm harwain,
A rho golofn niwl y dydd;
Rho i mi fanna, Rho i mi fanna,
Fel na bwyf yn llwfwrhau.
Fel na bwyf yn llwfwrhau.

Pan yn troedio glan Iorddonen,
Par i'm hofnau suddo i gyd;
Dwg fi drwy y tonnau geirwon
Draw i Ganaan -- gartref clyd:
Mawl diderfyn. Mawl diderfyn
Fydd i'th enw byth am hyn.
Fydd i'th enw byth am hyn.
Lord, lead me through the wilderness,
Me, a pilgrim of poor appearance,
I don't have strength or life in me,
Like lying in the grave:
Omnipotent, Omnipotent
Is the one who brings me to the shore.
Is the one who brings me to the shore.

Open the sweet fountains
Flowing from the Rock that is;
Give a column of fire to lead me at night,
And give a column of fog during the day.
Give me manna. Give me manna,
So that I shall not falter.
So that I shall not falter.

When I walk the bank of the Jordan,
Cause all my fears to sink;
Take me through the roughest waves
Over to Canaan, a cosy home:
Unending praise. Unending praise
Will be to Your name for this.
Will be to Your name for this.

It's interesting that the Welsh version doesn't have the "crystal fountains." I'm guessing that the Welsh for "sweet fountains" is "ffynhonnau melus," with the possibility that Welsh "sweet" came from the Latin for "honey." It doesn't even seem to include the "Bread of Heaven" words.  I'm still pretty sure that the Bread of Heaven is plenty sweet.

Bread of Heaven
St. Faith, Llanfoist, Monmouthshire

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!