John "Ceiriog" Hughes (1832–87)

James Owen and his family would have been familiar with the works of the poet Ceiriog Hughes. At the height of his fame he was stationmaster at Llanidloes (1865-1870), which is where James lived from 1840 until his death in 1886.

Although Ceiriog Hughes wrote in Welsh, many considered him to be one of the greatest 19th-century lyric poets, likened in style to Wordsworth and Coleridge. He was an avid collector of old Welsh airs, researching their history and creating songs by writing poems for them; much of his work, including ‘Men of Harlech’, ‘All Through the Night’ and ‘The Shepherd of Aberdovey’ were songs created in this way. His work embodied feelings of nostalgia for rural Wales and the characters and music of childhood, a feeling known in Welsh as hiraeth. In his heyday only the bible outsold his books in Welsh language publications.

Obviously it is difficult to translate his verses into English but the example on the right is from the sequence of songs in Alun Mabon and seems appropriate as it contains an allusion to the passing generations.

The mighty mountains changeless stand.
Tireless the winds across them blow;
The shepherd's song across the land
Sounds with the dawn so long ago.
Still around with rocks each day
The bright white daisies nod and climb.
Only the shepherds cannot stay
Upon those hills till end of time.

Old Welsh customs need must change
As years progress from age to age.
The generations each arrange
Their own brief patterns on the page.
After his long watch on the hill
Alun Mabon too has gone.
Yet lives the ancient language still,
And still the melodies play on.