Islwyn Ffowc Elis
I can't help being a Welshman. I could have chosen not to think in a Welsh way. But I should still have been a Welshman, because my forebears were Welsh-speaking Welsh people, and because it was the land and weather of Wales that shaped the way of life into which I was born.
It's my parents more than anyone else that I have to thank for the fact that I write in Welsh. Although English was my mother's first language, it was decided from the start that we children should have Welsh as our native tongue. And in the years of my youth, at a school that was almost wholly English-speaking, whenever I tended to think in English and even began writing a little in it, the Welsh language would always draw me back to it, because that was the language of my home and most of the books there, the language of my chapel, my people, and my community.
And all this for me is a destiny from which I can't escape — the imperative that's upon me day and night to be what I am, a Welshspeaking Welshman. This, perhaps, because Wales herself is under a destiny. It's incomprehensible to me how Wales has survived. There's no sense in the fact that a number of tribes so mixed in blood and so ambivalent in their outlook should have gone on being a nation over fifteen long centuries, despite relentless attack from without and constant schism within.
It's not her language which is the reason. That could have disappeared long ago, as it did in the land of the Gododdin 1 and in Cornwall, and as languages have disappeared in other countries. Neither is it her system of laws. Those ceased to exist in the memories of old men more than five hundred years ago. Nor are her mountains the reason. Those were as much a hindrance to her unity as they were a safeguard of her separate identity.
It seems to me that there's something of a cat-with-nine-lives about the Welsh nation which resembles, to say the least, a destiny. It's true that every cat has to die sooner or later, yet that doesn't detract from the wonder that it saves its skin in the teeth of so many dangers and manages to live for so long.
There's something peculiar, say what you will, about being a few hundred thousand people on a narrow strip of upland who have