Many believe that the haunting tune of Myfanwy is possibly one of the greatest tunes ever written. The Myfanwy lyrics tell the tragic story of the unfulfilled love of a poor young poet for a beautiful young noblewoman who lived in Dinas Bran castle. The remains of Castell Dinas Bran stand above the Welsh town of Llangollen and is the scene setting for the sad love story of Myfanwy. Myfanwy was the daughter of the Norman Earl of Arundel and was, according to sources at that time, the most beautiful woman in Powys.
Myfanwy, the melody, was written and composed by Joseph Parry (1841 – 1903), with the lyrics written by Richard Davies (1833 – 1877) - it was first published in 1875. Maybe there was a real Myfanwy in Parry's life, a girl by the name of Myfanwy Llwyellyn. Like Parry himself, she too emigrated to America. According to the legend, they met some 30 years later but for whatever reason, Myfanwy Llwyellyn snubbed the Welsh composer and he then composed wrote his famous tune full of unfulfilled love.
Whatever the legend, the story or the history of the song, Myfanwy remains one of Wales’ most famous songs and even today the song Myfanwy features in the repertoire of many Welsh male voice choirs.
So what do the Myfanwy lyrics mean - what is the translation of Myfanwy?
Myfanwy Lyrics - Cymraeg
Myfanwy Lyrics - English
Paham mae dicter, O Myfanwy,
Yn llenwi'th lygaid duon di?
A'th ruddiau tirion, O Myfanwy,
Heb wrido wrth fy ngweled i?
Pa le mae'r wên oedd ar dy wefus
Fu'n cynnau 'nghariad ffyddlon ffôl?
Pa le mae sain dy eiriau melys,
Fu'n denu'n nghalon ar dy ôl?
|Why so the anger, Oh Myfanwy,
That fill your dark eyes
Your gentle cheeks, Oh Myfanwy,
No longer blush beholding me?
Where now the smile upon your lips
That lit my foolish faithful love?
Where now the sound of your sweet words,
That drew my heart to follow you?
Pa beth a wneuthum, O Myfanwy
I haeddu gwg dy ddwyrudd hardd?
Ai chwarae oeddit, O Myfanwy
Â thanau euraidd serch dy fardd?
Wyt eiddo im drwy gywir amod
Ai gormod cadw'th air i mi?
Ni cheisiaf fyth mo'th law, Myfanwy,
Heb gael dy galon gyda hi.
|What was it that I did, Oh Myfanwy,
To deserve the frown of your beautiful cheeks?
Was it a game for you, Oh Myfanwy,
This poet's golden flame of love?
You belong to me, through true promise,
Too much to keep your word to me?
I'l never seek your hand, Myfanwy,
Unless I have your heart with it.
||Myfanwy, may your life entirely be
Beneath the midday sun's bright glow,
And may a blushing rose of health
Dance on your cheek a hundred years.
I forget all your words of promise
You made to someone, my pretty girl
So give me your hand, my sweet Myfanwy,
For no more but to say "farewell".
Joseph Parry arguably Wales' greatest composer, is a famous son of Chapel Row, Cyfarthfa, Merthyr Tydfil. He composed over 400 Hymn tunes, three hundred songs, and 300 anthems, chorales and other orchestral pieces. Yet this talented man was born into poverty and spent several of his early years working in coal mines and iron works.
Joseph Parry was born on 21 May 1854. He loved music from an early age, but the family - seven children in all - was often in financially difficult situations. As a result, Joseph went to work in the Cyfarthfa Mills at the age of 9. In 1854, when Joseph Parry was 13 years old, his father decided to move to America and settled in Danville in Pennsylvania; this story is told by Jack Jones in the novel Off to Philadelphia in the morning.
After some time in America, Parry returned to Britain to concentrate on his musical career and he attended the Royal Academy of Music. He won major prizes at the National Eisteddfodau in Swansea and Llandudno and was admitted to the Gorsedd with the bardic name of Pencerdd America. In 1873 he became Professor of Music at the University College, Aberystwyth and remained there until 1880. In 1888 Parry settled in the small seaside town of Penarth, and died there on 17th February 1903.
The song has featured in many films and television programmes and has been sung by almost, if not every single Welsh male voice choir. In films it featured in 'How Green was my Valley' and also in the Swansea based film, 'Twin Town'. It is also sung in the 1992 Welsh-language biographical film Hedd Wyn. Rather surprisingly, it is both played and discussed in the episode "Death and Dust" of the television show Midsomer Murders during a visit to Wales by detectives from an English village.
In modern times, it is still a favourite as sung by Cerys Mathews, and Bryn Terfel and is also sung without exception at every Welsh Rugby Union international in the National Stadium, Cardiff.
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Last Updated 20th September 2020
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