Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist



Silent setting sun dips slowly o'er the hills
Casting long shadows 'cross the sleeping vales
The village lies in quietness and evening now distils
Sweet gold on high and purple low 
Reflected in the ripples 'pon the lake
The branches of the oak stand bare.
Springtime has yet to wake.

Within the whitewashed cottage covered with its reeds
Snuggled in bedchamber the lady in waiting lies
Listens lovingly to the gently flowing breeze
And knows the bleak of winter has now flown.
Into the chamber where with amour she awaits
The wind soft melody of music gently wafts,
Swaying movement from the velvet drapes.

The gentle beat of heart beneath her bosom'd chest
Whose rise and fall betrays the dearer wish
Unfurls drab darkness teasing her from lonesome rest
To seek again the love that she would truly take.
Awaits the lady for the form of her chosen knight
To lie beside her till the cock shall sound the morn
Seductive fulfillment of the verses they now write.

Now shall her enchanting take its alluring course
To clasp her arms to close around his defenceless form
Which drawn to her by some mysterious earthly force
Shall contented yield to her body's greater warmth
Lips with sweet kisses put an end to secret doubt
Draws unreserved the love to its conclusion
Hearken now to the thrill of lover's joyous shout.

Passions drawn from deepest earth the bodies now consuming
Fast desires that within their hearts have long been shared
Sweetness of the love that spills in its outpouring
To bring again those moments of pure pleasure
And lie again contented in the bed
Nestled close together for the night.
Ends now that time when heart once bled !

Copyright: David Hopcroft 1995

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I can hear the winds across the mountain peaks Clear waters of the bubbling stream; Through the mists the purple heather beckons, The time has come when I can no longer dream. There's a cottage sleeping snugly beneath the hills, Its old stone walls have stood the tests of time. The slated roof has seen the winters come and go The fireside glows with warmth of burning pine. The little fields where sheep have grazed and lambs were born Stone walls the crofter laboured hard to mark his land Where grass is green and meadow hay is sweet Where once the plough was guided by the wisen'd hand. Across the barren moor the winds may sweep Around the cromlechs where Celts sleep for the 'morrow Circles tell the tale where ancient ritual once performed Gave thanks to those who guard the ground we borrow To climb the steps upon the road from Harlech on to Bala Across a land where Merlin surely cast the spells of old, And ice-scratched rocks tell the tale of glaciers gone; Where Romans marched in days gone by seeking out the gold. Listen now, hear the sound of Rhiannon riding fast And wonder where the cauldron now is hidden. Listen on. Can you hear the fall of Bendigeidfran's step ? The land of song and bard unto which we are bidden. Where the strains of Teirtu's harp are calling me And Rhiannon's magic birds sing through the night To guide the silver'd moon across the darkest sky Awakens now my spirit; Calls loud the land of light. Come with me now and cross the step to the flagstoned floor Walk upon the soil Glyndwr fought to save See the winter sun rise beyond Snowden's whiten'd peaks Look to the solstice, let your heart be strong and brave.

Copyright: David Hopcroft 1996

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Where the hammock lady lies

Where the hammock lady lies

Darkness in the oaken hammock dropping;

Soft silent shadows slip in slowly from the west.

Fiery sun dips her head and dies again,

Seeds drifting slowly through the air now come to rest.

Oak holds hard night’s bleak blackness overhead,

While gentle moon behind scudding clouds hides her face.

Steel magnolia casts her branches wide ,

Wishful widows quickly spin wondrous captive lace .

Bleached bones within the oyster midden held.

Shifting sounds of the closing night can oft deceive;

Forests binding spirit souls from the past,

Shapes drifting ‘twixt  moss-laden trunks await their leave.

Crumbling stumps form circles within the glade,

Pine-boarded creaking cracker shack lies part in ruin.

Old owl calls warnings from Hackberry Bluff,

Red fox sniffs the night-time air; ‘Something is brewing’

Flickering wick of lantern clings to light.

The small room where the hammock lady free from strife

Lies  not in sleep but in her land of dreams;

Time suspended where her spirit world comes to life.

Faithful lover drifts through the bolted door.

Ne’er alone in life and now at night she smiles again

Her world protected by swamp angel nets

She feels the kiss that sets the captured heart aflame.

She walks again within the citrus groves,

Sweet scented orange blossoms fill the morning air .

Death a world apart, life  a world within ;

Hands reach out to clasp, each still knows the other’s care .

Dawn and Red Bird calls out  loud ‘Day has come’ 

In an empty shack there’s a space for those who grieve .

Within the mound life seems so still, at rest,

Yet waiting for the lover who can still believe.

David Hopcroft March 2007

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Y traeth

Sweet summer sun beats down upon the face

That slowly treads the winding boardwalk o’er the dunes.

Feet that have walked a thousand miles through the years

Enjoy new life with every striding pace,

Move onward through these lazy afternoons

Where life moves on and sadness loses tears.

Past white grains of sand the sea oats binding

Following the track of railroad vines towards the shore.

Not far beneath my feet the turtle eggs seem fast asleep;

Nearby ghost crabs lie in wait, a-hiding.

Even the ocean seems at rest, waves sliding slowly o’er the floor

Out in the bay the buoy bobs gently where the water’s deep

Kelp and shells cast up as flotsam stringing out a tidal line

Where fleet and nimble tern seek out a breakfast feast.

Gentle flapping wings, the pelican returning with its catch

Moves inland to soar above stands of  long-needled pine.

The world now seems at peace with man and beast,

I marvel as I lie beneath the palm leaf thatch.

David Hopcroft March 2007

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Y Traeth (Beach).

Sweet summer sun beats down upon the face

That slowly treads the winding boardwalk o’er the dunes.

Feet that have walked a thousand miles through the years

Enjoy new life with every striding pace,

Move onward through these lazy afternoons

Where life moves on and sadness loses tears.

Past white grains of sand the sea oats binding

Following the track of railroad vines towards the shore.

Not far beneath my feet the turtle eggs seem fast asleep;

Nearby ghost crabs lie in wait, a-hiding.

Even the ocean seems at rest, waves sliding slowly o’er the floor

Out in the bay the buoy bobs gently where the water’s deep

Kelp and shells cast up as flotsam stringing out a tidal line

Where fleet and nimble tern seek out a breakfast feast.

Gentle flapping wings, the pelican returning with its catch

Moves inland to soar above stands of  long-needled pine.

The world now seems at peace with man and beast,

I marvel as I lie beneath the palm leaf thatch.

David Hopcroft March 2007

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Saint Dwynwen

Sweet maiden of this fair isle, why weepest thou this way ?
Why does the teardrop run down the rosy cheek ?
Where is the smile that brightens up each day ?
The toss of golden hair, the gay laugh so many seek.

What is the cause of such misery ?
Has some misfortune come your way ?
Some loss, an accident, did you foresee
Some peril that may cross your path this day ?

Sir, I thank you for your kindly words about my state
That you should care for my unhappiness
Alas ! There is nought to be done about my fate
Yet e’en so, let me tell thee of my distress.

In burning love the handsome Maelon I would seek for my delight
He who sings so proudly and plays so gently on his harp
Sweet songs that charm and enchant me upon the blackest night
Such joy, such rapture, yet I can no longer play my part.

My father’s wishes have promised me to another
Some Lord from overseas; no feelings have I for his desire;
For soon would he of my passion for Maelon uncover
I care little for his castles and his riches; ’tis the love of Maelon I require

My father’s love is dear to me, and to his wishes I must defer
For as he has so decreed then ’tis my duty to obey
Though my passions for another I cannot in my heart deter
So, kindly sir, now knowest you the reason why I weep this day.

Art thou some sage who could some wisdom give to me ?
Methinks that from your face you are a stranger to this sacred isle
What course should I take when passion drives my every plea
Is there a way to transform my teardrops to a smile ?

Sweet daughter of the island king, whose love is not with foreign Lord
Whose forefathers fought hard to free your people from the bloody axe
Alliances he forms to secure his kingdom from the Norseman’s sword
In mind perplex’d, sweet words you sing are lost whilst he’d make pacts.

Turn your prayers to the wisdom of the Celtic saints at rest
That they may aid thee in thy intercession to the deity
But tak’st thou care; be true and honest seeking favour to be blessed
Seek within the circle a space where they may speak with thee.

So Dwynwen’s tale this day must now unfold
Of how when moonlight outshone the flicker of the starry-studded skies
She did go forth at dusk, to brave a night so clear yet cold,
To make her pleas within the stones, tears streaming still from saddened eyes

As Dwynwen prayed that night upon stone circle another brighter light was shined
With radiance that outshone the moon, so bright the circle seemed afire
(As past spirits summoned in this way will oft appear to troubled mind)
Whate’er such spirits form may be, Dwynwen knew of their attire.

To Dwynwen now the spirit discourse begins to make
To tell of a potion that her passion may disperse
Which potion made of herbs so rare, a draught she shall partake
Though to her lips only; for others the same shall be a curse.

The spirits to their world return, clouds drift o’er to cover moonlit sky
Then to her home Dwynwen returns to gather with the morning dew
Such herbs that were told to her; within a silver chalice soon to dry
Which then with wine be mulled to form enchanting brew .

So she doth drink to ease the burning love from the body young and fair
As passion is consumed so feelings of her love vanish without trace
Then Maelon, anger ever growing , seeing love is gone forever, cries out in despair
Lifts chalice high to drain the cup, his heart no longer wants to race

Alas ! Love has turned cold; so cold that like the lake upon the mountain
Covered soon with ice as harsh of winter’s grip sets in
Like icicles that grip and seize the flow of clear crystal fountain
Her lover once, now the ice is trapped within

Once more to sacred isle she returns to seek out the very sage
Whose wisdom aided her release from passion’s fiery storm
To tell how by misfortune Maelon has been taken in his rage.
The old man walking on the sands is found upon the dawn..

Kind sage the words you gave to me have quenched the ardour of pursuit
But surely ’tis by accident the life of Maelon now is held in time
Of your advice I seek once more; wisdom to guide me on my route.
Her story told, the sage into her ears gently whispers magic rhyme.

Her intercessions once again are made within the circle’s ground
Of wishes three, please give to me, break the spell that Maelon will be free
Fairies and elves hear of her pleas, woken by the sadness of her sound .
To her mind only is the form of vision seen; those who believe surely see.

Three wishes granted by a deity; Dwynwen before her answer gives does pause.
First for her lover Maelon, that no longer frozen shall he as ice remain
Second that she should no longer be betrothed, no matter what the cause
And that for other lovers, if love be true, she might plead of their refrain .

Such wishes she is given; though, in life, love no longer can pass her way.
To live a simple life for those who to others wish happiness and kind
Upon the rocky island she builds the church whose ruins stand today
To drive away such dark and gloom, to heal the troubled mind .

A well there is upon Llandwynwen’s isle, which did with sweet water flow
And eels lived within its water deep and clear
Who would, if cloth the surface covered, dance quickly to and fro’
Their pattern held a meaning for the lover that was dear.

‘Twas not so long ago that on these very shores, so I am told,
That when sea mists rolled in to cloud the wind-blown dunes
A figure might emerge from whitewashed cottage, a vision to the bold,
Who would tell the meaning of the eels, as others may use runes.

So when the sun is bright, yet low in sky, in the first month of each year
Wait upon the fifth and twenty day, then with your sweetheart go
To seek answer on Llandwynwen’s isle; but go ye not in any fear
For Dwynwen still to honest lovers true shall make their passions grow.

Copyright: David Hopcroft 1997


Nant Gwertheyrn

Nant Gwrtheyrn

I cry out to the spirits of this valley “Grant me peace !”
In search of my silver maiden, lost fore’er,
I climb the highest cliffs e’en to Yr Eifl’s stony peak.
Call out again “Where hidest thou, Mair ?”

Curses still are echoing through these hills.
When shall the valley break from a darkened past ?
Is this some trial of strength of spirits’ wills ?
Should love here always be in shadows cast ?

Down through the steeply wooded slopes,
O’er tumbling rocks and sliding shale,
Where oak clings firmly to the shallow soil
Here lies the village in this hidden dale.

Where Gwrtheyrn sought to find his peace
When in disgrace from his own countrymen he fled
For in deliverance from the northern Picts
His country to the mercenary Saxons he had wed.

Somewhere, so ’tis said, among these crags do lie his bones.
Where tinted granite in more recent years sparked life
When laughter and friendly chatter rang from now ruined homes
Hiding, for one small moment, the history of strife.

I cry out again for Ceridwen, my plea shall echo from the shore,
Ring from the valley’s sides and through the rowan trees.
“Tell me, where hides my love ; does she lie beneath the foamy waves ?
As the hare and then the hound, listen for her in the breeze. “

I recall the days of childhood seated beside the earthen mound
Wherein the bones of all our forefathers were placed to rest
We listened to the elder’s stories as we gathered round
How curses broke the happiness; of a ancient faith put to test.

Once god and goddess could be worshipped side by side
When sacred woods were gathered for the Beltane fire
Hawthorn, oak and hazel in bundles carefully tied
To entice the Lord and Lady of the light in their desire.

Whilst o’er the hills a different faith to Clynnog Fawr had come 
Where Saint Beuno’s monks had scorned our ancient pagan way 
And three now came to tell us that the older paths were done
Ills would befall those who listened not upon this day.

Ifan, our chief with flowing hair had sat near the water’s edge
Listened to preaching of destruction; for so the monks had cried.
Yet had not this village for some hundred years or more
Let Christian god with other deities sit side by side ?

Ifan had in wisdom listened to their brimstone’d reason
Which spoke of a hell of ever-burning fire and flame
Of a faith that now claimed to own the spirits’ home
Of one deity, with no goddess, known by just one name.

Aghast the wisen’d chief was filled with horror.
“What of Rhiannon, of the singing lark and cooing dove ?
What faith is this, that all should be consumed by terror ?
Where is the place for mounds and wells, shrines to those we love ?”

E’en as the waves lapped gently on the shore
The monks in earnest of their mission to convert
Heard not the plea to recognise this ancient lore.
Though the faith of the monks the chief would not divert.

‘Til anger swept through the minds of village folk
Whose worship now was cursed whene’er they spoke
And from the wooded valley monks were driven
Nant Gwrtheyrn’s ways to outside world were hidden.

Yet as they reached the rim of rock that guarded o’er the glen
Each monk would turn and to the valley hurled a curse
Evil and darkness poured out from the lips of zealous men
In rage the future of this village would be worse.

The first was to declare that for the newly born
No place in consecrated ground would they e’er find to lie
Births within this valley the Christian church would scorn
No resting ground for man or woman when they die.

The second, turning, cursed the valley with a dread
Fair maids and youths in this village born who love do find
Would ne’er in forthcoming years to the same be wed
To love each other was the curse the monk did bind.

The third called out in loud voice for the final doom
That village would fall to ruin and decay, he urged
Those who stayed would live a life in gloom
Until the earth within the valley from their faith was scourged.

My heart cries out. “Where is Rhiannon, where is my queen ?”
I listen for the hoofbeat of her horse upon this hill.
“Destroy the evil of this curse; let your magic now be seen.”
Let your birds guide us on the journey to the spirit world.

When by the fire that warmed the house with blaze of peat
My mother recalled for me the fate of men with courage in their hearts
I seemed to find myself bewitched as I listened from my seat
A history of fates that had befallen those who dwelled in these parts.

How Pyrs and Rhodri from their boat in storm were tossed
No bodies washed ashore for loved ones to reclaim.
How Hywel and Rhisiart from the height of cliffs were lost
To the ocean depths ; of many searches, all in vain.

Did not my father from another village my mother seek;
Fearing lest he found a love within the valley ?
Did not my sister leave our home within the very week
That she had reached an age where she might marry ?

“Sweet Mair, art thou forever lost to me ?”
We sought in our love to free this place from the voices of the damned
“Fair maiden of golden hair I cry for thee.”
Why should the curses of the past determine that our love is banned ?

It seems but yesterday when our village was so full of cheer
Our houses decked with flowers to join us for our future years
Tables laden down with food; a garland on your head I hear
Your beauty in white dress defied the ancient fears.

Upon that very morn, Bifan the puppy dog you had bestowed
As your gift to me to celebrate our wedding day
I sang of our love as in the springtime sun I road
To meet with you to join us with festivity.

When, by tradition, your fair form we did not meet;
For, as is our custom, the bride upon the noon be hidden
For groom with fellows to play such a game as hide and seek
So finding you, in wedlock we are to be bidden.

I call for the spirits to cross o’er the waters from Tara’s hills.
To search with me among the waters of the tumbling streams.
Let me find again the love that held such thrills
Let us seek within the caves for one who held my dreams.

I remember as the shadows lengthened with the evening sun
Fair Mair whose secret place we never found
Rising, searched again until the day was also done
Called for her answer and ne’er heard a sound.

I stood with our friends upon the towering cliff to stare below
Where raging seas had tossed the tides upon the moon
Could such foaming brine have claimed the love I knew
So much that we had promised; was it lost so soon ?

My heart is broken as I walk the beach, thoughts of you I tried to save
The months go by and then the years pass too
Bifan, memory of our last parting, now laid to rest in watery grave
What life have I, lost is the sweetest love for you.

Mair ! Bifan ! I listen to the raging sea crash against the rock,
I hear faint cries of love I knew,
Beneath these cliffs, there lies the love I would unlock.
Mair ! Bifan ! I jump to be with you !

When I sank beneath the waves your spirit I had hoped to find
To bring us close and at last the village curse defeat
What torment still awaits ? What curse is so cruel and unkind ?
Will our spirits rush through these woods, nevermore to meet ?

From within the woods I still recall the fierceness of a winter storm
A thunderbolt that split in two the giant oak
Inside the hollowed trunk they found your bridal form
Your body gripped as in a vice. Cries were never spoke.

In love and laughter on that day you hid within our lover’s tree
Where we had lain beneath the leaves and under summer’s sun had kissed
Under those very branches where we danced and sang with glee
What pain this spirit feels. Sweet body within the wood we missed.

Still in you bridal gown, your flowing hair now turned to silver’d gray
Your bones within the coffin placed in sacred ground should rest
Surely no curse could now deny you peace along the last pathway ?
The toil of the horse with cart shall carry you to where you’re blessed.

My spirit cries in anguish when at last on clifftop the old horse stumbles
To see your casket slide from tightly-fastened ropes with such ease
Crashing down the cliff, wood shattered, upon the rocks the coffin tumbles
I watch as your bones are scattered to the seas.

Shall our spirits roam forever in this cursed glen
Each time I hear your voice I float from tree to tree
I’ll search until I find thee, for only then…. 
Yes ! Then shall this valley from a curse be free.

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2019

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Dolmens at Ardudwy

The Dolmens of Dyffryn Ardudwy

Old bones that once lay beneath old stones

The first in faith here so long ago

Old age that crept upon a chieftain’s bones

A dolmen built in respect and in belief

What then of that belief from early man

Who walked the woods when wild boar still roamed

Land cleared as huts of wood were built

Crops to be grown to feed a group

Early pastoralists they may have been

Whose skills may also have hollowed trunks

To make canoes and upon seas to catch fish

Whilst amongst the rocks shellfish were sought

Yet there are no signs of middens from these times

How many might be involved

To raise capstones weighing several tons

How did they perform such tasks

In times before metals were being used

What drove them to carry out the task

The answers we may never know

Why should these folk have raised these stones

What drove them to respect the dead

Was there some belief in a future life

At the least a belief in some higher power

Stones raised for bones

Not those that made their circles in the hills

To mark the solstice twice each year

Nor the single stones whose purpose remains unknown

These stones were raised in some belief

Standing now beside the two dolmens at Dyffryn Ardudwy

I can feel a peace as rises the morning mist to give way to sun

Are the spirits of those who once lay here still within these grounds

Did their souls find a place for eternal rest

Why should the only souls to be saved

Have come from some group of tribes in Palestine

Surely His presence was also in these hills

His wonders also upon this countryside

Surely those who eked a living in those times

Knew more than just the changing of the seasons

I wondered if they prayed as we do now

Or just how they gave their thanks to Him

Festivals perhaps held as in Celtic times

For harvests that provided for their livelihood

Now only yards away a busy road

With a flood of tourists steaming by

Few will stop and visit these old stones

Few will pause and wonder why

Some may pass taking the dogs for morning walks

Occasionally a visit to take a photograph

Yet these old stones still hold a memory

Spirits that might tell a tale if free

Revealing their meaning perhaps to you and me

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2019

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Gelert the Hound


A more faithful hound was never known

Loyal and trusted to Llewellyn of Wales the king

Beneath Snowdon’s peaks the hound found his home

Praises of his worth many noblemen would sing

In Dolbadarn castle where his master dwelt

Gelert the hound would emerge for every hunt

A legend in his hunting known to every Celt

For in the pack Gelert always led from the front

One cold morning came the hunting horn

All assembled for the day by the castle gate

Yet there was so sign or sound of Gelert’s form

His master perplexed the hound was never late

Calls went out for Gelert in the castle ground

Master and huntsmen looking to and fro

Alas Gelert was nowhere to be found

Mounted upon his white steed Llewellyn called to go

All day within the woods they made their chase

For the deer that they hoped to make their feast

The stag fled fast the hounds were at a faster pace

Caught unawares another unsuspecting beast

Returning to the castle gate there Gelert was seen

Standing with blood on coat and dripping from tongue

Llewellyn quickly ran to see where his hound had been

In anguish came his call and hands were wrung

His infant from the cradle was no longer there

Cried out against his hound and threw his spear

Gelert’s dying moan pierced the evening air

Llewellyn curses upon the hound all could hear

Then from an inner room there came the infant’s cry

Llewellyn hastened now upon the inner hall to see

There beneath the corpse of largest wolf did lie

The babe in safety thanks to Gelert’s bravery

Cursed he again for the rashness of his act

Tears like a river then flowed from his face

Oh how he now wished that time could be turned back

Called he to be flogged for his disgrace

Now at Bethgelert stands the plaque in memory

To recall the bravery of Llewellyn’s faithful hound

Who killed the wolf to save a future king to be

And still in the valleys folks will hear Gelert’s dying sound

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2019

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Rise up for Derfel Gadarn Ardudwy

Rise up for Derfel Gadarn Ardudwy

Born he was to a nobleman of high birth in Brittany

Offspring of Hywel a mighty lord who dwelt at Brest

Destined to be a warrior at battles across the sea

In armour in those early years was our hero dressed

On Camlan’s field was where this noble gained his fame

Where Mordred in battle was to meet his fate

A man of the spear and Derfel was his given name

But more of that and later life must wait

Whilst historians now tend to be somewhat dry

John Cowper Powys on Derfel’s youth was more revealing

A reputation gained from the maiden’s cry

A mighty steed from whom there was no concealing

Through the forests of Gwynedd and of Powys rode this knight

Escapades overseas to Ireland were also made

Fierce in battle a warrior who bled for what was right

So many other mortals were left in shade

A steed he had whose gifts were somewhat rare

When any maiden filled with Derfel’s love were to pass near by

His horse would turn and neigh towards such maiden fair

Soon in some cornfield he would with the maiden lie

A reputation did Derfel gain to break the maidenhood

Some even said that Derfel’s rod was like the axletree

Where many heard the Derfel moan within the Bychan wood

Then saw upon the maiden’s face a smile as she walked free

Derfel’s rod was then tamed by a dancer who came from overseas

Tegfedd with her darker skin with enticement won his heart

On Ynys Lawd they made a home whereupon each would please

So in childbirth six offspring as Tegfedd played her part

Then came the battle that would determine Arthur’s fate

At Derfel’s call the men of Ardudwy would to battle rise

On Camlan’s field so many fell to pass beyond Saint Peter’s gate

Derfel Gadarn was one of the seven who did survive

In sorrow he viewed the carnage strewn across the battlefield

Young lives lost as greed and revenge had hoped for a crown to gain

Upon his knees he wept and ‘twas then that to the Lord he did yield

Resolved that a warrior of repute he would no longer remain

Ardudwy’s hero retired at first to the hermit’s cell

A life of solitude at first within stone walls

Fasting often and surviving on the water from the well

Seeking forgiveness from the Lord until he heard the calls

Upon the call from above to Llantwit monastery he went

A monk to follow God in daily toil and evening prayer

Work with herbs and potions to heal the sick God sent

To help the old and infirm and all who needed care

An abbot at Ynys Enlli some say that was where he breathed his last

A warrior who killed in youth had died a warrior for God

Derfel remains a Celtic Saint his influence over Ardudwy was vast

Did he stand by those Dolmens where stone caps were covered by the sod

At Llanfihangel Church they dedicated their relief

An image removed by Cromwell to burn another saint

One torch for God used to try and destroy belief

His life will ne’er be forgotten with the image that I paint

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2019