Hiraeth and Hwyl: Last Gilt by Menna Elfyn


To celebrate the publication of The Long Field, the author Pamela Petro asked eight writers, poets and artists to explore the ideas of hiraeth and hwyl for this new sequence on The Clearing. Here the celebrated poet Menna Elfyn writes about the last known bald eagle in Wales.



She won’t see the wood tonight,

the ground won’t hear her cry tonight,

but hungers for the flesh she craves tonight;

our bold, embodied yesterdays. Our golden eagle.

But tonight?


In her spell on the air, on a wing, fierce rain.

Breath soared over clouds, crossing time as in heaven.

A two-metre span to hold us,

apart, as we fall as she fell –

no defense in the crossing of old swords,

her passage forged, a spoil.

From ore of the skies to two

metal pellets. Executed. Heirless.

The last of her tribe.


And instead of drinking the yield of her prey,

Her beak doused in sun rays where sky meets land,

her X-rays were taken where walls meet corners

and darkness conceals the smut from her down.


Twelve solitary years, wore

history on her back.

But day on day, did she ache for a mate

to warm the living from life? Draw threads? Hatch flesh

from the bones of exception?

F.O.I. decides ‘I’ll skip the bit about the shooting’.

From four walls of office ‘Freedom

of Information’ clipped. ‘No matter’, man writes,

‘she had a disease’.


But her legend circles the valley tonight,

the quiver of flight. Her gilded light

falls from the sky over mountains tonight,

where Cambria’s gold mines its awe from a bird.


‘gnawd nyth eryr ar flaen deri,

o un i un aethant oll’.





Menna Elfyn is one of Wales’ leading Welsh-language poets – the most-translated minority-language poet in the world. Her latest collection of poetry is Bondo (Bloodaxe, 2017). Menna is also the President of Wales PEN Cymru and a playwright, columnist, biographer, editor, and language activist.


The Long Field by Pamela Petro is out now.


The image at the head of this essay is by Pamela Petro.


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