Flashback Friday: Hiraeth

Tonight brings us once more to memories, those which have been lingering since some weeks now as if they are starved for attention. In this time, largely because some of my child’s interests and questions have transported me back to when I was his age, recalling what I spent my time doing and reading about, I have been re-visiting a great deal of personal scribblings that I’ve carried around the world. At one time I read a lot of Jan Morris, whose writing introduced me to hiraeth, a Welsh word that according to the University of Wales, Lampeter encompasses a “homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an the earnest desire for the Wales of the past.” While I am not Welsh, as a teenager I related to the feeling as I had always had a sensation of being strongly attached to those who came before me, as well as the land they and we had once inhabited–meaning the land itself but also what it once was in contrast to what it had become. When I walked through it I somehow felt the sensations of other beings, as if I were remembering them from times past, and was mournful over our ruptured bonds, longing for the connections to re-establish.

As I have discovered, there are a number of poems addressing hiraeth, one from Tim Davis, the first line of which speaks of the direction one might receive from the sensation. While Davis’s poem attempts to define, mine seeks words for the emotions I had been experiencing. I do not pretend to understand it completely, or connect myself with a land I do not know. I could only, then and now, express relief that someone actually had a word for my feelings and, having no other, I took hold.


Slowly in the curling evening fog
An evasive enchantment wistfully rolls
A sigh moves it slowly upwards

A dismal rainshadow hangs overhead
Then lets flow a mournful flood of sorrow
If eternity could tell its tale

Once more the call of Gwydion echoes
Silently through a valley and a peak
Which absorbs the everlasting grace

Freely called, though few discern
Longing rumbles distant in Time
Moving through the ages

The unspoken passage of messages here
Erupts the natural instinctive sense
Enthralls for a lifetime, and then lets go