Dragon Has Two Tongues available in Paperback
- Pub. Date:
- University of Wales Press
First published in 1968, The Dragon has Two Tongues was the first book-length study of the English-language literature of Wales. Written by one of Wales’s major English-language writers of fiction and poetry, it includes chapters dealing with the work of Dylan Thomas, Caradoc Evans, Jack Jones, Gwyn Thomas and Idris Davies, all of whom Glyn Jones knew personally.
This first-hand knowledge of the writers, coupled with the shrewdness of Glyn Jones’s critical comments, established The Dragon Has Two Tongues as an invaluable study of this generation of Welsh writers. At the same time, it contains Glyn Jones’s own autobiographical reflections on his life and literary career, his loss and rediscovery of the Welsh language, and the cultural shifts which resulted in the emergence of a distinctive English-language literature in Wales in the early decades of the twentieth century.
Although a classic study, The Dragon Has Two Tongues has long been out-of-print. Tony Brown had the opportunity to discuss the book with Glyn Jones before his death in 1995 and has had access to Glyn Jones’s own proposed revisions and to manuscript drafts. This first paperback edition therefore includes some updating of the text and a new bibliography.
About the Author
Tony Brown is a Senior Lecturer in English and Director of the Humanities Research Centre at the University of Wales, Bangor. He has edited several books, including The Collected Stories of Glyn Jones (1999), and is also the editor of the journal Welsh Writing in English: A Yearbook of Critical Essays.
Read an Excerpt
LETTER TO KEIDRYCH
I address this introduction to you because in a way it was you who started it all. By 'it' I mean this particular book and the general inquiry into Anglo-Welsh, a term, by the way, I know you dislike as much as I do.
The Dragon has Two Tongues is really the outcome of a small incident, which I see no reason for your remembering, which took place one Sunday afternoon early in the Second World War, when I was travelling from our suburb into Cardiff on the bus with you, after you had been spending the week-end with my wife and me. I was on my way to the Welsh Sunday school I attended, and you were going to catch your train back to London. 'I don't suppose', I said, 'that many poets will be going to Sunday school this afternoon'.
'Ah,' you replied, 'not English poets. But you are not an English poet. You are a Welsh one'.
This was not, as you well know, the first time I had thought of my literary nationality. Even if I had not considered it before 1937, which I had, often, the founding that year of your sensational Anglo-Welsh magazine, Wales, would surely have brought it up sharply for me then. But I began to realize that afternoon that the question was really much bigger than I had thought, and that it was by no means entirely a literary one. It involved somehow my going to a Welsh Sunday school as well as the fact of my being a Welshman who wrote in English. Supposing I was a poet at all, was I really a Welsh poet as you so confidently affirmed? I was deeply conscious, certainly, of being a Welshman, and when I met young English poets of my own generation, sometimes in your company, I was often acutely conscious of the differences between them and myself. But although by the time I am speaking of I was able to speak Welsh, I had, unlike you, written no poems in the Welsh language. Also, I had taken very little part in Welsh literary life, in the eisteddfodau and so on. And out of this concern with my own position the question arose of those other writers, several of them our friends, whose situation seemed to be in many ways similar to yours and mine. Was Dylan Thomas a Welsh poet or an English one? And Vernon Watkins and Alun Lewis? I have over the years, like other Anglo-Welsh writers, tried to give answers, not always the same ones, to these questions and those related to them, in written articles, in lectures to adult classes in literature and in radio talks and discussions, some of them with you. The idea for this book is really the result. Some of it you will know about already. The chapter on Huw Menai – I wonder if you remember the marvellous night you and I spent with him and Gwyn Thomas in Cardiff just after the war – first appeared, in a very much shortened form, in the Western Mail in 1960. I had completed what I had to say about Dylan for this book before the appearance of Constantine FitzGibbon's admirable biography and his Selected Letters but, although these reveal that some of my assumptions about Dylan were mistaken, I decided not to remove or to alter anything I had already written. Part of the material about Idris Davies (also a protégé of yours) was broadcast at the time of the poet's death in 1953, and part appeared in an American publication called the Poetry and Drama Magazine in 1957. The basis of the autobiographical section which opens the book is a Welsh apologia I delivered to a meeting of the Academi Gymreig, the Welsh Academy of Letters, in 1964.
Although Anglo-Welsh literature began long before 1900 – it is in fact, as Raymond Garlick has reminded us, older than American literature – I am concerned in this book, as I've suggested above, only with what has been written by Welshmen in English in this century, more especially since the outbreak of the First World War. The two people I am most indebted to in this field, apart from yourself, for information and ideas, are Raymond Garlick and Professor Gwyn Jones. To Raymond Garlick I can be specific, when the time comes, in my acknowledgement of indebtedness. I so often, in the thirties and forties, discussed Anglo-Welsh literature with Gwyn Jones that I have no idea now what I knew about it, or what my standpoint was regarding it, before our discussions began. But he of course is not responsible for any of the shortcomings of this book, including the many questions unasked and unanswered. All the wrong-headedness, all the howlers, inaccuracies, generalizations and distortions, inevitable perhaps in a first and informative statement of this sort, are my own private property.
To him I can only say a general thank you for unselfish help, encouragement and generous appreciation over many years. I hope that, should he come across an idea in this book, as he might easily do, that he recognizes as belonging originally to him, he will see its presence here as a measure of the enormous impression his part of the debate has made upon my own thinking. And that goes for you and Raymond Garlick too.
You might remember, Keidrych, seeing me described in one of the less responsible organs of English journalism as a 'Welsh scholar'; and in the same type of Welsh journalism as an 'English scholar'. What I am certain of is that in no sort of English journal have you ever seen me called an English scholar, or in a Welsh journal a Welsh scholar. What I am attempting in this book has not much to do with objective scholarship; that will have to wait until Gwyn Jones brings to this subject his experience, judgment and enormous erudition. These essays are personal, an account of Anglo-Welsh as seen and experienced by someone who has been associated with a fair number of Anglo-Welsh writers and their books and magazines over many years. I believe I once showed you my earliest published prose, contributed to the Welsh Outlook (which came to an end in 1933). This was a review of the big Burne-Jones exhibition held that year in the Tate, and a consideration of the claim, which I attempted to disprove, that this painter was some sort of 'Celtic artist'. My stories and poems appeared in the first and in subsequent numbers of Wales, as you know, and in Gwyn Jones's Welsh Review. In Life and Letters To-day too which, although edited from London, many of us in Wales in the thirties and forties regarded almost as a third Anglo-Welsh magazine, so encouraging was its editor towards us and so often did writers like Dylan Thomas, Vernon Watkins and Gwyn Jones contribute to its pages. These factors, with my appearance in various Anglo-Welsh anthologies of poetry and short stories which I shall discuss later, and that personal acquaintance with Anglo-Welsh writers I've already mentioned, I regard as my qualifications for writing this book. You know the sort of writer I am. My Anglo-Welsh poet friends claim to like my short stories, my short-story writing friends express admiration for my novels, my novelist friends urge me to produce more poems. What will the lot of them make of this book, this highly personal account of recent and debatable literary history in which they have been involved? What will you think about it? I hope you won't echo a rather too candid friend who saw it in typescript and described it as my most devious and inventive work of fiction.
In affection and gratitude, Glyn.CHAPTER 2
In 1944 an anthology of poems was published under the editorship of Keidrych Rhys entitled Modern Welsh Poetry. Almost twenty years later The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse appeared, selected, introduced and annotated by Dr Thomas Parry. One of the many differences between these two books was of course that the first concerned itself entirely with the work of modern, i.e. twentieth-century, poets, while the second covered a vast period of time, thirteen centuries of poetry, in fact, beginning with the Gododdin of the sixth-century poet Aneirin, and closing with the work of Bobi Jones, born in 1929. But there was an even more fundamental and striking difference between the two books because, in spite of its title, all the poems in Keidrych Rhys's anthology were in English, while all those in The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse were in Welsh.
Dr Parry's right to the word 'Welsh' in his title was clear and unequivocal, since not only were all his poets Welshmen, but they also, even those still living, wrote their poems in the Welsh language. To many, especially to Welsh-speaking littérateurs, Keidrych Rhys's use of the same word in his title appeared misleading, even presumptuous, because, although it indicated accurately enough the nationality of the majority of the contributors, it completely misrepresented the language in which the poems appeared, which was English.
At this point I feel I ought not to proceed further without restating an elementary fact arising from the above, one which many people outside Wales, and even some within it, hear for the first time with surprise and even incredulity. It is that Welsh is still the first language of hundreds of thousands of Welshmen and Welshwomen and that a flourishing literature continues to be produced in it: novels, books of verse, plays, short stories and criticism, as well as newspapers and magazines, children's books and works of scholarship in history, biography and theology and so on. It is against this background of living, written Welsh that I am attempting at the moment to place Keidrych Rhys's contributors.
To return to our two anthologies. In The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse is to be found the work of such famous Welsh poets as Waldo Williams, Saunders Lewis, Gwenallt and T. H. Parry-Williams. Names, in the nature of things, unfamiliar outside their native Wales and, possibly, the departments of Celtic of a few home and overseas universities. On the other hand, many of the poets represented in Keidrych Rhys's book – Dylan Thomas, Vernon Watkins, Alun Lewis, David Jones, R. S. Thomas – are known wherever English verse is read, and indeed it is they, rather than Dr Parry's writers, who, to many, represent Welsh poetry. But the truth is that, although Welsh by birth and upbringing, Keidrych Rhys's poets write entirely in English. To avoid confusion in such a situation, an obvious necessity has been the invention of a literary term to denote writers like those represented in Modern Welsh Poetry, i.e. Welshmen who write, whether poems, stories, novels or plays, in English. I propose, however reluctantly, to follow custom and call them 'Anglo-Welsh'. When I have occasion to refer to Dr Parry's writers I shall call them simply 'Welsh', unqualified and unhyphenated, or, where ambiguity might arise, 'Welsh-language'.
All the poets of Modern Welsh Poetry belong to the twentieth century, and it is with them, and with their contemporaries who write prose, that I intend to concern myself in this book. But the modern ones, contrary to general belief, are not by any means the only Anglo-Welsh writers. It is perhaps impossible now to decide who the first Welshman to write a poem in English was, but we may be sure that anglicization would not have to proceed very far before someone had a shot at it. Professor Gwyn Williams has suggested that it might have been an Oxford Welshman called Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal, who lived between 1430 and 1480. If this is so it means that those who think Anglo-Welsh writing began, and perhaps ended, with Dylan Thomas, are inaccurate to the extent of about five hundred years and at least seventy poets, as I hope, with the help of Raymond Garlick, to show.
Until the time of the Tudors, a dynasty of partly Welsh descent, the vast majority of Welshmen must have been monoglot Welsh speakers, al though a small number were probably bilingual. Shakespeare's Glendower swanks to Hotspur about his ability to use posh English, but he was an aristocrat who had spent some time at the Inns of Court and as an officer in the army of the English king. Sir Hugh Evans, although in jealous Falstaff 's jibe he 'makes fritters of it', yet speaks English at least copiously – but he lived in Windsor, and the Welsh schoolmaster on whom he was probably modelled earned his living in Stratford, a sort of Elizabethan Slough or Coventry. Raymond Garlick says that from the accession of Henry Tudor in 1485, English began to be one of the languages, in some cases the only language, of an increasing number of Welshmen. This tendency to use English was stimulated by Tudor policy in Wales, by the founding of Jesus College, Oxford, and by the establishment of the Tudor grammar schools in the principality. After over four hundred years of union with England and nearly a hundred years of compulsory English primary education, a policy cheered on by amiable Philistines like Matthew Arnold, the situation at the present day in Wales is that only about a fifth of the population are able to speak Welsh, so that monoglot English speakers outnumber Welsh speakers (monoglots and bilinguals) by about four to one. Let me stress at the outset the incalcul able extent and value of the contribution to life in Wales of this Welsh-speaking minority, to the country's politics, religion, culture and native literature. And let me restate the, to me, melancholy fact that by now the over whelming majority of Welshmen cannot speak, read, write or understand Welsh, and that English is willy-nilly their mother tongue.
I have named Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal as Professor Gwyn Williams's candidate for the distinction of being the first Welshman to write a poem in English. The name of that poem was, approximately, 'Hymn to the Virgin', and it opens in this way:
O meichti ladi owr leding – tw haf at hefn owr abeiding yntw ddy ffest efrlesting i set a braents ws tw bring
We can assume that the author of these strange stanzas was bilingual and acquainted, as befitted the son of a Welsh scholar, genealogist and poet, with the literature of his own country, since although the poem is in English the spelling is Welsh (hefn = heaven, ddys = this, ffor = for, etc.) and the stanzas are written in the form of englynion, the englyn being one of the twenty-four metres of classical Welsh poetry. After Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal, between Maurice Kyffin (1555–98) and Alun Lewis (1915–44), Raymond Garlick has discovered sixty-nine Welsh men and Welshwomen who, in varying numbers through the centuries, have written poetry in English. Most of these are now forgotten, like Sir John Scourfield, formerly Philipps (1808–76), Dr David Samwell (1751–98), surgeon on the Discovery and witness of Captain Cook's death, and John Thelwall (1764–1834), the friend of Hazlitt and Coleridge; but several will still be known to students of English literature, poets like Henry Vaughan the Silurist, George Herbert, John Dyer, who appears in Johnson's Lives of the Poets, Hester Lynch Piozzi (née Salusbury, of Bachygraig, Flintshire), George Powell, the eccentric friend of Swinburne, and Sir Lewis Morris, who almost became Poet Laureate after Tennyson. (Morris was usually described, after the name of his Welsh home, as 'of Penbryn'. This, someone unkindly remarked, helped to distinguish him from the other Morris, William, 'of Parnassus'.) Several Welshmen, although they have invariably excelled, if they have excelled at all, in only one language, have written poems in both Welsh and in English, and some poets are thus to be found not only in Garlick's necessarily heterogeneous collection, but also among those who have received the accolade of inclusion in Dr Parry's anthology. These poetic bilinguals include Iolo Morganwg (1747–1826), gifted poet, high-principled literary forger and greatest Welsh scholar of his day, who produced two volumes of English verse, and William Williams Pantycelyn (1717–91), regarded by some as the finest of all Welsh lyric poets, who wrote over sixty English hymns. Others were Morgan Llwyd, Lewis Morris (an ancestor of Morris of Penbryn), Ieuan Fardd, Islwyn, Elfed, T. Gwynn Jones, Sarnicol, Dewi Emrys and Wil Ifan. But the important and abiding work of the last eleven poets I have named has been done in their first language, Welsh, and for this reason I see them completely outside the consideration of this book; although five of them are poets of the twentieth century, their work in English is secondary to their great achievement in Welsh. My original definition of Anglo-Welsh, then, ought to be limited to indicate those Welsh writers whose entire work, or, in one or two instances, whose best work, has been done in English in the twentieth century.
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Table of Contents
Preface to revised edition, ix,
Editor's acknowledgements for the revised edition, xii,
I Letter to Keidrych, 1,
II Autobiography, 5,
III Background, 37,
IV Introduction to short stories and novels, 46,
V Three prose writers: Caradoc Evans, Jack Jones, Gwyn Thomas, 60,
VI Introduction to poetry, 117,
VII Three poets: Huw Menai, Idris Davies, Dylan Thomas, 131,
VIII Conclusion, 192,