The Girl in Ogyrvan’s Hall

(Amended version of an earlier translation, with extended commentary).

I love a fair fort on the side of a hill

where seagulls glide : there stands a shy girl.

I yearn to be with her but she would not have me

Though I came on a white horse for her sweet mirth

To tell of the love that has overcome me

To lighten my darkness out of the gloom,

To see her whiteness like the foam on the wave

Flowing towards us out of her realm,

Gleaming like snow on the highest hill.

To cool my vexation in Ogrvan’s Hall

Unwilling to leave her (it would be my death)

My life-force is with her, my vitality ebbs

Like Garwy Hir* my desire undoes me

For a girl I can’t reach in Ogrvan’s Hall.

After the Welsh of Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd (died 1170).

Ogrvan’s Hall was identified by Sir John Rhŷs as a place in the Otherworld, occupied by the god that ruled over it. But there is also legend of a giant called Gogvran who was said to be the father of Gwenhywyfar who may, in turn, have been confused with [G]Ogyvran who occupied a fortress in Powys in the sixth century.

*Garwy Hir was a legendary lover in Welsh tradition. His love affair with Creirwy is alluded to by other early poets though the details of their story is lost beyond the idea that she was ‘the fairest maiden in the world’ and, in one version of the Taliesin story, the daughter of Ceridwen. Garwy was enchanted by her and made helpless by the thought of her, as Hywel in the poem seems also to be by the unattainable girl in the otherworld fortress.

An ogyrven is also one of the divisions of the Awen (poetic inspiration) according to a poem in The Book of Taliesin. There may be no etymological connection between these names, but that Hywel (and others) should be inspired by a woman in Ogyrvan’s Hall is surely a correspondence no poet could ignore!