Precedents in Unlikely Places
Stand on the summit of the low volcanic hill, Allt-y-clych, ‘hill of bells’, that ‘small hill’ which dominated the mind and dreams of the poet for more than thirty years, and you can, on one of those rare clear days in mid-Wales, make out the mass of the Brecon Beacons to the south, and the stark shoulder of Hay Bluff. To the east broods the blackness of the Radnor Forest; the military ranges of Epynt echo to the south-west, and northward the Cambrian Hills are shaped by the man-made waters of the Elan Valley. Ted Richards, in his Homage to T. H. Jones, describes this area as:
the spine of Wales … Older than Testaments,
the first, the Cambrian Rock.
Here all is spare, sparse, primitive.1
Metonymic Allt-y-clych dominates all, a Welsh Ben Bulben under whose bare head the ashes of the poet were scattered and whose ‘dictionary of vowels’ was always, to the living poet, ‘open at Alpha and Omega’. ‘Bedraggled with wet fern/And stained with sheep’,2 it held, for him,
like a threat
The wild religion and the ancient tongue,
All the defeated centuries of Wales.3
Allt-y-clych is the hill of a legendary bell buried, with an equally legendary treasure, by monks at the very edge of the lands of the Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida. The hill separates the twin rivers, Chwefri and Hirnant. Draw a seven-mile circle with Allt-yclych as its centre and you encompass the entire landscape of the actual, and the imagined, childhood of T. H. Jones.