Monday, October 23, 2017

Welsh Mormon Hymns

John Sylvanus Davis, or Davies. (1822-1882)

Announcing a new blog, "Welsh Mormon Hymns" or "Hymnau Cymreig Mormon."

This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

I wanted to know what my ancestors sang as they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wales. In 1852 while my Welsh Mormon ancestors still lived there, John Davis of Merthyr Tydfil published Casgliad O Hymnau, Caniadau, Ac Odlau Ysbrydol At Wasanaeth Saint Y Dyddyau Diweddaf, Yn Nghymru or LDS Welsh Hymnal. Yes, the language is as challenging as it looks.

There is no modern Welsh Hymnal in the LDS Church as far as I know.

Amazon will print and sale copies of old books for which the copyright has expired. You can buy this one and maybe help me out with this project. I know about a half dozen people who could maybe help. (Ffrindiau?) Or for no cost at all, there is a PDF version of the hymnal linked on-line at Welsh Mormon History maintained by BYU as established by one of my life-heroes, Dr. Ronald Dennis (ironically my professor of Portuguese nearly 40 years ago).

My plan was to develop a cross-index to identify English hymns in Welsh so I could sing them. My wife doesn't like it when I sing hymns in other languages at church, or even the original versions of songs like the bass-line "wonderfuls" in "I Stand All Amazed" or "You who unto Jesus" in "How Firm a Foundation." My kids listen for my original version of "Praise to the Man" whenever they are around. Remember, the Welsh hold grudges for thousands of years longer than the Mormons.

Back to the Hymnal. I know translation is hard because I've done a little bit of it in Portuguese studies and in Spanish in church service. The magic, requiring some art, is to learn to convey the original meaning in a different language which is not at all like translating word for word, line by line. In poetry and hymns this is an impossible task. My flat cap is off to John Davis for his accomplishment.

Still, it is a struggle to find the hymn without any music attached. It's just the lines of verses. Humming along helps in looking for a particular hymn. And there are 575 (!) Welsh Hymns to hum through before you find the right one.

I thought maybe the Manchester LDS Hymnal of 1851 would have helped as maybe a base for John Davis's work. I was excited that the first hymn "The Morning Breaks" matched but that's just some weird coincidence that it is also the first hymn in the current LDS Hymnal as well as in Cymraeg.

There are a few other hints that help sometimes. I found "The Spirit of God" by looking for two "Hosannas" in a row. My search in Welsh titles did not help with that one. Check it out. Starting with "Fel tân" should have done it, but every puzzle is easy once you've solved it.

And there are many more to go.

So, to my fellow Welsh speakers out there, I give a challenge. Please help me identify more of these Welsh hymns so we can find them and share them and sing them!

Hosanna, hosanna i Dduw ac i'r Oen!

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