What is it to be human?

By Waldo Williams Waldo Williams

Translated By Menna Elfyn Read the translator's notes

What is staying alive? To possess   
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.

What is it to believe? Being a carer   
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.

What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What's work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.

What are state affairs? A craft
That's still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby's fist.

Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What's the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.

Source: Poetry (April 2008).

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2008

Biography

Waldo Williams (1904–1971) is widely regarded as one of the finest poets Wales has ever produced. Dail pren (The leaves of the tree) was the only volume of poems he published during his lifetime.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION Wales

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