Anthem (Reservoirs)

Anthem (Reservoirs)

Mixed media, Indian Khadi Paper

Based on two sources that inter-relate, yet cancel each-other out.
The heroic, patriotic words of the national anthem of Wales, 'Hen Wlad fy Nhadau' which
has been obliterated, leaving only a few key words; and a stanza from the poem
'Reservoirs' by R.S. Thomas. This poem berates the Welsh for their willing surrender of their own culture.

This is the poem, written in


There are places in Wales I don't go:
Reservoirs that are the subconscious
Of a people, troubled far down
With gravestones, chapels, villages even;
The serenity of their expression
Revolts me, it is a pose
For strangers, a watercolour's appeal
To the mass, instead of the poem's
Harsher conditions. There are the hills,
Too; gardens gone under the scum
Of the forests; and the smashed faces
Of the farms with the stone trickle
Of their tears down the hills' side.

Where can I go, then, from the smell
Of decay, from the putrefying of a dead
Nation? I have walked the shore
For an hour and seen the English
Scavenging among the remains
Of our culture, covering the sand
Like the tide and, with the roughness
Of the tide, elbowing our language
Into the grave that we have dug for it.

R.S. Thomas

This poem by R S Thomas appeared in “Not That He Brought Flowers”, published in 1968. It was written soon after the opening of Llyn Celyn (Lake Celyn) Reservoir.

Capel Celyn was a rural community to the north west of Bala in north Wales, in the Afon Tryweryn valley that was flooded to create a reservoir, Llyn Celyn, to supply Liverpool and The Wirral, with water for industry.

The village contained, among other things, a chapel, as the name of the community suggests.

When the valley was flooded in 1965, the village and its buildings, including the post office, the school, and a chapel with cemetery, were all lost.

Twelve houses and farms were drowned, and 48 people of the 67 who lived in the valley lost their homes.

In all some 800 acres of land were submerged. Llyn Celyn, otherwise known as the Tryweryn Reservoir, was formed.

Thomas speaks with bitterness of the compulsory purchase of the Welsh countryside by the English and the great loss to the community.