‘Starlight Order’: from Y Gododdin to In Parenthesis

Images © David Jones Estate

FANS of Now the Hero, the war drama played out in the streets and buildings of Swansea last week can get a taste of more epic war drama next month.

October 4 is National Poetry Day and to help celebrate the Dylan Thomas Centre has curated a special exhibition that links two of Wales’ most famous epic poems, Y Gododdin and In Parenthesis.

Y Gododdin tells the story of a doomed band of Celtic and Welsh warriors who took on the English at Catterick around the Year 600AD while In Parenthesis is the up-close and personal story of an English infantryman who took his life into his hands at Mametz Wood at the height of the slaughter of World War I’s Battle of the Somme.

Both poems provided inspiration for writer Marc Rees’ own amazing take on warfare and the men and women who become its casualties and heroes in Now the Hero which took centre stage over five nights last week.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Innovation, Regeneration and Tourism, said the Dylan Thomas Centre exhibition – Starlight Order – from Y Gododdin to In Parenthesis – goes on until March next year.

Cllr Francis-Davies said: “Now the Hero was a truly unique event and anyone who was there will be wondering from where Marc Rees gained his inspirations and insights. The exhibition at Dylan Thomas Centre gives visitors the chance to dive in and find out more about what it feels like to be caught up in the chaos, the bloodshed and the heroism that’s at the heart of war-fighting.

“We planned our temporary exhibition to link with the themes of Now the Hero, and in time for National Poetry Day. It also illuminates the circumstances around Dylan Thomas’ first meeting with Richard Burton.”

No-one knows who wrote Y Gododdin, but it first appeared in The Book of Aneirin, which is thought to date from the late 13th Century. It tells the tale of a band of around 300 Celtic fighters who perished fighting overwhelming odds. Many of the facts are lost to history but, according to the story, there was as few as one Welsh survivor.

In Parenthesis is a work by Welsh author David Jones and when it was published in 1937 T.S. Eliot, one of the 20th century’s greatest poets, described it as a work of genius. W.H. Auden said it was the greatest book to have come out of the horror of World War I.

Jones, who was born in England, spent two years fighting with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the same regiment as author Robert Graves. Despite the poet’s hero being an Englishman, much of the story is autobiographical.

The exhibition features artefacts and pictures as well as extracts from the poems. Some of the images from World War I are by Jones himself, who was also a renowned modernist artist. The exhibition has been presented in partnership with the National Library of Wales and with thanks to the Estate of David Jones.

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