William Evans “‘Cawr Cynon” 1808 – 1860

This lamented Merthyr man was not born, as stated in our Recollections, at Twynyrodyn, but in one of the old thatched cottages at the west end of the Iron Bridge. For this and other information I have to thank a friend who signs himself “Cyfaill,” and who adds other facts which I had previously noted down for insertion in the series of Recollections on Eisteddfodau. With their quaint appearance inside and out, they bring before us the old village when iron works were not. Let my readers imagine the broad road a simple lane the canal unformed Ynysfach Works not in existence and from Llwyncelyn down to these houses a long extent of fields, some covered with brushwood and others but poorly tilled. Then the thatched cottages were the dwellings of the herdsmen or shepherds belonging to Llwyncelyn farm.

He was in his sixth year when the family moved thence to Penheol, Merthyr, for the convenience of his father, who was at the time working in Blaen-y-Cwm-Level. There is a slight but interesting history about these old thatched cottages which stand, the relics of a past time amid an altered neighbourhood. He became a miner, under the Plymouth Company, still a poor miner, but now become tolerably well-educated for a poor self-taught man, and with more than a notion of poetry.

William Evans "'Cawr Cynon" 1808 - 1860

Grave of Cawr Cynon, Aberdare Cemetery

He had tried his hand by this time at odes and englynion with success, both at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod and the Cymrodorion Society held at the White Horse. His friends and contemporaries, in speaking of these efforts, award him considerable praise, and say, with truth, that he was more-fond of writing, for the love of writing, than for prizes. Nathan Dyfed, no mean critic, states that great numbers of prizes were awarded at Abergavenny and the White Horse for efforts much inferior to those Cawr Cynon was capable of producing. He excelled in minuteness and care, and, to the utmost of his ability, essayed to do a thing.

It is a fact, learnt from experience by the great body of workers, that men who rise from their ranks to govern them are too often more tyrannical than the born gentleman. It is another fact that men who bear the character of quiet amiable men in private life, are the reverse in public duties, and reversely, as if demonstrating that as most men are gifted with a certain quantity of tamper, it must be exhibited either in one capacity or the other. Evans was an exception to both rules. In his private life he was amiable and domesticated, and in his public position was a true workman’s man; governing well, so gently as not to lose the respect of his men, and still so firmly that his employer’s interests were not neglected.

As a prose writer he was respectable, but rather “tame.” He had a fair acquaintance with the kindred subjects of geology and mineralogy, theoretically and practically, but in other branches of science he does not appear, though a discursive reader, to have been proficient. In polices be was versed, but it was rather the politics gleaned from the weekly newspaper than from keen observation and profound thought. Poetry was his true empire, and in this he took a high second class position among the bards of South Wales. North Wales always insists on a priority to South in bardic skill and lore, in fact the literary magnates of the North say that there are no poets in South Wales, a statement quite at variance with the truth, and only indicative of the prejudice entertained towards their Southern brethren, Cawr Cynon cannot be ranked with Caledfryn or Eben: Fardd, with Nicander, Dewi Wyn, or R. ap Gwilym Ddu; neither can he be placed by the side of his Southern brethren loan Emlyn, Dewi Wyn o Essyllt, or Cynddelw but a position may be claimed for him, in the bardic scale, with Gwilym Mai, Nathan Dyfed, and Ieuan Dda. We add our old friend John Thomas, though the difference must be kept in view when drawing a comparison, that he is a free metre poet, but the rest were confined to the orthodox 24 metres, Cawr Cynon was superior to the general run of our bards, who seldom rise above a pennill or an englyn. He aspired to the highest position of a translator, a writer of odes, and poems, and was noticeable for the quiet vein of sarcasm, and happy display of humour which characterised his efforts. He was also superior to the majority by his greater care and polish, and the different and superior method of composition he practised in the treatment of his themes.

These were many. As a born poet he may be said to have lisped in numbers, and from an early to a late period thrown off from his active mind many a worthy offspring. Among these may be enumerated a spirited. translation of “Caractacus’s Address to the Army,” probably from Tacitus; an Ode on the prophet Jonah; a Poem on Pride; six Englynion to the celebrated clock- watch of David Jones, a very able, though “second best” production on the Prophets of Baal: &c., and this list might be greatly lengthened, but sufficient are here given to show the variety of subjects his muse selected.

Finally, though neither a scholar nor a genius, in the highest acceptation of the terms, Cawr Cynon may honestly be regarded as one of those men who rise now and then from the ranks, and by the name they win, the position they attain, and the uniform good qualities they exhibit, act as examples to their fellows, which were both well and wise to follow.

Cawr Cynon (Cynon’s Giant)
Poem by Alaw Goch

Mr. William Evans (Cawr Cynon), he died on November 15th 1860, 52 years old. He was the Chief Supervisor of Mines for Anthony Hill, Esq., Plymouth, Merthyr. He was also a very refined and great poet.

It is painful to sing the praises of Cawr Cynon, – a task
Which almost sinks my heart;
It is a wound which pulls at the heart
To cry out under the burden of sighs.

The wise Giant, a true colleague, – and poet
Undoubtedly, a true patriot;
A composer of cynganeddion to the very last,
So easily did this man turn to poetry.

An officer by nature, – a patron
Of literature out of love;
To bestow greatness on gracious virtue,
This is what simmered in his motivation.

Oh! the loss, its extent I cannot – note
Exactly during the rest of my life;
Behold here the house, on the bank of the Taf-
I do not see William there.

LLUN CAWR CYNON (CAWR CYNON’S PORTRAIT)

The Cawr’s Portrait! Happily would I love – to respect it
And own it were it possible;
Never will this be truly acknowledged –
And his image we shall hardly worship.

Cawr Cynon
(Deigryn torch ei Fedd.)

DAGRAU serch f’o gwlith ei feddrod,
Adenydd engyl fyddo’i gysgod
A thyner suedd yr awelon,
Uwch argel wely’r bardd “Cawr Cynon.”

Mor llawn o siomiant ydyw bywyd!
Er chwilio’n ddyfal am ddedwyddyd,
A thybio’i gael – eheda ymaith,
Fel cysgod huan yw ei ymdaith.
Plith awenyddion llawn uchelgais,
Yn nyddiau maboed tirf a llednais,
Brwd oedd ein serch at feirdd a’u doniau.
At feirdd. at genedl, a gwlad ein tadau
Meithrinem decaf addewidion,
Am gyrhaedd bri yn mhlith llenorion
Gwyllt Walia; a meddu eu hedmygedd,
I’n bryd oedd pinacl clod a mawredd
Ond buan defiwyd teg obeithion,
Gan ofal byd a’I groesawelon.
Adchwela’n cof at nawn Nadolig,
Pan frysiem gyda bryd sychcdig,
I arlwyedig wledd lenyddol,
Gynysgaeth cylchwyl Gymreigyddol;
A charwyr addwyn awenyddiaeth,
Ddoent i fwynhan y bur ddarpariaeth
Wrth ben y bwrdd, mewn gwedd lywyddol,
Eisteddai henwr doeth, urddasol;
Ein hathraw medrus – “T. ab Iolo,”
Feddylgar wedd, ddysgleiriai yno
Y tyner, tlws. gwladgarol “Cawrdaf,”
“Cawr Cynon” hynaws, fardd teleidiaf
Ond heddyw preswyl yr enwogion,
Yw mangre lonydd – bro marwolion
Er hoffi sylwi ar brydferthion,
Y’nt flodau tryfrith hyd gynyrchion
Beirdd hoff ein gwlad, en holl felusder,
Yn fynych. angau dry yn chwerwder:
Dolefwn am ein cyfaill “Cynon,”
Oedd dlws ei wedd a thlws ei weithion;
Blodeuyn oedd fu’n hyfryd sawru,
Yn mheraidd ardd farddonol Cymru
Gwir arlun ydoedd 0 ddillynder.
Tlysineb oedd ei benaf hoffder;
Oedd engraff deilwng o deleidrwydd,
Corpholiad trylawn o onestrwydd
Ei glod oedd uchel fel dirwestwr,
Ac ef a gerid fel dyngarwr
Bu fyw yn Gymro gwladgar, ffyddlon,
Bu fyw rinweddol oes y Christion.

Dagrau serch f’o gwlith ei feddrod,
Adenydd engyl fyddo’i gysgod;
A thyner suedd yr awelon,
Uwch argel wely’r bardd “Cawr Cynon.”

Merthyr Tydyflyn