Remembering “The Bards of Wales”

Event Date October 21, 2017 2:30 p.m.

Location – ATRIUM, Zen room (CA B403)

Marking the occasion of the bicentenary of the birth of Hungarian poet János Arany, we are organising a roundtable discussion to examine one of his most significant works: the ballad entitled “The Bards of Wales”, which was set to music by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins (2011). The roundtable of experts will examine Arany’s heritage, the relevance of this genre of narrative poetry and that of the poem itself then and now, the role of the bard, storytelling with music, and historical correspondences between what we might term two small nations: the Welsh and the Hungarians.

János Arany’s folkloristic ballad, “The Bards of Wales” is a gem of 19th century Hungarian poetry – Arany’s only ballad about a non-Hungarian theme.

First written in 1857 for his drawer and revised for publication in 1863, Arany’s poem revisits the legendary Welsh story of 500 bards being sent to their death by medieval king Edward I when reluctant to sing his praises on his visit to his 1277 acquisition, Wales. Arany, a poet with a close connection to Hungarian folklore and a keen interest in what we might call British literature and history uses the Welsh legend as an allegory of the Hungarians’ domination by Austrian rule. When the royal couple were to visit Hungary Arany was invited to write a poem to welcome them. He did not take the opportunity, making his excuse due to ill health, but “The Bards of Wales” is traditionally seen as his response.

What makes this narrative poem (fusing lyricism, narrativity and drama) such an iconic text, and what does it mean to us today?

All welcome to join us to listen to the poem at least in three languages and discuss its rich afterlife in a cultural, historical and artistic context.

Roundtable participants:

Dr Júlia Paraizs, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Professor Joseph Sobol, University of South Wales
Dr Zsuzsanna Varga, University of Glasgow
Professor Alan E. Williams, University of Salford

A short musical programme consisting of two ballads (by Kodály) will be provided by Elizabeth Sillo Mezzo soprano (BBC National Chorus of Wales) and Dorothy Singh Accompanist (Kodaly Violin School). Professor Joseph Sobol will perform Jock o’ Hazeldean which is Walter Scott’s version of a traditional Scottish border ballad, and Woody Guthrie’s Ballad of Tom Joad. Visual accompaniment will be provided by SuperWales.

Convened by Dr Márta Minier, University of South Wales

Supported by The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling and The Centre for Media and Culture in Small Nations at the University of South Wales.

The roundtable is an adjacent event to the Hungarian Cultural Centre’s (Balassi Institute London) The Bards of Wales – Building Projection in Cardiff.


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