TOMAS PRYS OF PLASIOLYN (c.1564–1634)
‘Kowydd i ddangos mae uffern yw Llvndain’ (‘London is Hell’)

The Welsh text of this poem was published in an essay by Dafydd Huw Evans, ‘Cywydd I Ddangos Mai Uffern Yw Llundain’, Ysgrifau Beirniadol 14 (1988), 134–51. The introductory notes that follow here are taken from Evans’s essay.

Tomas Prys was born about 1564, the eldest son of Dr Elis Prys and great grandson of Rhys Fawr who fought with the future Henry VII on Bosworth Field.

Himself a soldier, he tells us that he fought on behalf of the crown in Flanders, Germany, France, Spain, Scotland. So he was quite a well-travelled man. He also enjoyed a career as a pirate. He was married twice and had numerous children, but several of them died quite young and his most deeply felt poetry laments them. Prys died in 1634.

Like many of his gentrified countrymen of this period, Prys spent a good deal of time in London. He seems to have liked the place a lot, for he composed a cywydd in which he sends an owl as llatai (‘messenger’) to his fellow Welsh urging them to come join him in London. In another similar cywydd, he sends a mouse as messenger on the same errand. In another cywydd he sends a wren from Wales to bring his greetings to his many friends in London.

But he seems to have had his problems in London, especially with its seamier underside. He was in Fleet prison in 1613, according to one of his poems, and he wrote a cywydd entitled kowydd i ddangos fal i somed gwr am i ariann pan aeth fo i dre Lyndain gyntaf rhwng karv merched a chwarav disiav ‘cywydd to show how a fool and his money were soon parted when he first went to London town, through chasing the girls and shooting craps’. And of course in the present poem he compares heaven with Wales and hell with London, ending with a curse that London be consumed by flames.

Translated by P. K. Ford, 1994. © This translation is reproduced by kind permission of the translator, and may not be further reproduced in any form.


Mal i mae nef, loewdref lwys,
hoff rydid, a fferadwys,
a llawenydd, lle anwyl,
llwyra gwaith, llawer gwyl,
a hyfrydych, hoew frodyr,
a missig kall ymysg gwyr;
ag angylion i llonaid
yn karv, dann ganv, a gaid:
a da edrych, modd didrist,
aml i kri yn ymyl Krist,
ag ai genav, goganiad,
yddoli Duw, ddiwael Dad.
Ag vffern sydd, wrth goffa,
rann nid teg, ir rai nid da,
lle keir ail y llv kreulawn,
a thristwch, mal llwch, yn llawn,
a haid or kythreailliaid hyll,
ar orchwyl yn ry erchyll,
yn barod, drvdnod draednoeth,
i ddrebyn pawb, ddirboen poeth:
gwyn i fyd, ag yn fadws,
gwedyr drayl, amgeidw or drws,
ag a feddwl gyfeddach
am y nef oddyma yn iach.
Mae i minav nef, hoewdref hael,
ag vffern yma yw gaffael:
a daioni di-annwn,
a bowyd hardd ywr byd hwnn;
nid yw e ddim, ond i ddall,
bid wir, wrth y byd arall:
yn ne ni ynvnion yw,
y wlad yn anwyl ydwy;
an plser yw, mwynder maith,
an llywenydd, llv iownwaith,
an hyfrydwch, nid trwch trin,
yn wych wrthiav, dan chwerthin,
yw hela, vwch heolydd,
kwn a gweilch, lle kawn y gwydd,
a chanv a savthv saeth,
a hwylio usport yn helaeth;
ag edrych, fowrwych fyrian,
ofer iach liw, ar ferch lan,
a chwarav, nid yn chwerwaidd,
yn ddiddig, evrddedig wraidd,
a roi ebwch er rywbeth,
gwiwfyd pvr, ag yfed peth;
ag heb feddwl, gwibfyddir,
drawg i neb a drigo yn wir
ond wllys da, nid llais dig,
a gwrido yn garedig.
Hynn yw gobeith perffeithiawl
a feddy Dvw o anfodd diawl:
onid , nyn y diwedd,
Dvw i lanhavn beiav, kynn bedd.
A vffern goeg, ffwrn i gyd,
yw Llvndain, filian fowlyd,
lle i mae kant, llwm yw Kowntwrs,
a lle hyll, a llv o hwrs;
kair mil mewn siel wehelyth,
heb ffens, yn y Kings Bench byth:
y Marsialsi, yn ddiwad,
a gair a llawer, nid gwad;
mae yn y Klink, mynn min kler,
ar Wheit Leion, rhowt lawer:
y Gattws oer a gwittiwn,
ar Breidwel, er byd a wnn;
Lwdgat a Nywgat, yn noeth,
yn llawn gann y llv anoeth,
ag er y sydd, e gair swrn
od air heibio drwy Hobwrn;
oni haeddir dwyn heddwch,
y Fflyt y sydd garchar fflwch.
Ir byd oedd arbed vddvnn,
nid oedd ofn vffern ond vn;
mae yn Llvndain, mewn llowndaith,
ddeg yn vn, ddigon o waith,
lle mae einioes llym enyd,
a chnafri a bawdri y byd:
lle mae alltvd llv melltith,
llawn kwyno a chogio chwith;
lle anianol, llawn yni,
lle Iddewon ynt yn lladd ni:
lle oer dig, a llawer diawl,
lle ffyrnig, llv vffernawl;
lle nis da, llv nos a dydd,
lle gelyn oll yw gylydd:
lle anvdon i llonaid,
lle brwnt i ynill heb raid;
ller fam ar ferch, heb serch sydd,
ar chwaer ni char i chwiorydd:
lle ni chred, yn anwedig,
y brawd ir llall, deall dig.
Ni chais vffern, chwys affaith,
ond eneidiav yw mvriav maith:
a Llundain, oedd gain, a gaid
i rannvr korff ar enaid
rwng marsiandwyr, torrwyr taith,
gwiwfryd, ar gwyr o gyfraith;
ni dowson, kwyn dywisiad,
vn geiniog dan glog yn gwlad:
war y naill, yn wir, ai nawdd,
a dysg y lleill an diosgawdd.
Hapvs ywr gwyr ai hepil,
ar bob tro, amgadwo ar gil:
a gadv i ffordd, gwedi ffo,
gwae frithwaith ymgyfreithio
a Llvndain ddig, filain dder,
a nafv i hvn yn ofer.
Am weriais om arian
ynthi yleni yn lan,
ond tair brenin, llawn gwinoedd,
ar Kyngor, wych oror oedd,
trwy i gwenwyn, lle trig enyd,
tan gwyllt fo tani i gyd.

As heaven is a bright and holy habitation,
fine freedom, and Paradise,
and joy, beloved spot,
most perfect creation, full of joy
and loveliness, brothers bright,
and fine music amongst men
and angels without fail
can be found, loving and singing all the while
and good prospect, carefree mood;
ample the cries about Christ
and in their mouths, praise,
worship of God, goodly Father.
So hell is, as we know,
a place not pleasing for those not good,
where are found fiends’ race
and grief, like dust, is everywhere;
and a swarm of sullied devils
hideously engaged
and ready, of evil purpose and hooves for feet,
to welcome all in searing agony.
Blessed is he, and fortunate,
after the travail, who can keep from its door
whose mind’s on keeping company
in heaven, safely away from this world.
I have both heaven, fine, happy habitation,
and hell here to deal with;
and un-hellish goodness
and splendid life is this world [of Wales];
it’s nothing, except to the blind,
for sure, compared to the other world,
precisely our heaven it is
the beloved land it is;
and our pleasure, longlasting delight
and our joy, righteous host;
our delight, pastime not sad,
splendid marvels in merriment
is hunting across fields
with dogs and hawks, where we take to the woods
and singing and shooting arrows,
and pursuing sport broadly;
and looking, splendid marian,
frivolous, carefree fair one, at a pure maiden,
and playing, not cruelly,
contentedly, golden haired one,
and giving a groan for some thing,
pure proper world, and drinking something;
without wishing, it will be known,
evil for anyone who lives truly—
only good will, not a vexed voice,
for one who blushes lovingly.
This is the perfect hope
that God enjoys against the devil’s will:
is not he the one, in the end,
God, for cleansing sins before the grave?
And false hell, utter furnace,
is London, shitty knave,
where there are a hundred destitute in Counters,
a foul place with a host of whores;
are found a thousand in a noble jail
without fence, in the King’s Bench still;
the Marshalsea, no denying,
will be found to have many, undeniably;
there are in the Clink, so say the truants,
and the White Lion many a bunch:
the cold Gatehouse I would renounce,
and Bridewell, for a reason I know;
Ludgate and Newgate, half-clad,
full from a wondrous host,
and though it is, in the word of many
if one goes out through Holburn;
if one does not obtain winning peace
Fleet is the perfect prison.
To the world that was spared them
there was no fear of hell but one:
it is London, in the long run
ten hells in one, enough work,
where a lifetime is sharply curtailed,
and the knavery and bawdry of the world are;
where an accursed crowd sits in exile,
full of moaning and loaded dice,
a carnal place, bustling,
where there are Jews to beat us;
place of miserable grief, and many a devil,
fierce place, hellish host,
no good place, tumult night and day,
place of endless enemies
place full of falsehood,
place to find filth without effort,
where mother and daughter are without love,
and sister loves not her sisters,
where, especially, brother believes not
another, fearing treachery.
Hell, toil’s sweat, seeks nothing
but souls for its long walls.
And London, which was once fine, was designed
to separate body from soul—
between merchants, breakers of man’s journey,
happy, and men of the law;
they do not give, O choice complaint,
a single penny under cover to our country,
goods of the one, truly, and his protection
and the erudition of the other will strip us clean.
Happy are they and their progeny
every time, who can keep at a distance,
and, having fled, keep away.
Woe to the desultory litigation
and bitter London, churlish and savage,
to wound himself needlessly.
For what I spent of my money
there this year cleanly,
except the king’s houses, full of wine,
and the Cyngor, splendid area it was,
through its poison, a place he dwells for a while,
may wildfire consume it entirely!





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