The Song of Wales

Nearly a century ago the atmosphere would sing to us. We’d awake in the morning to sounds like an angelic chorus reminding us of the great generation we got to be a part of. Not everyone understood the song at first, but word spread quickly because there wasn’t much else to talk about or distract us. World news was like the cosmology of today; though it seemed so large and important to some, most people were comfortable to remain ignorant in their small corners of the universe. There was no internet or television. Although the turn of the century carried a mass of new inventions the old habits persisted in our hearts. In the evening people gathered in the streets from around the block and our own local musicians with homemade guitars and percussions riled us up with their songs into dances by fire and lamplight. I was only about ten years old and a group of four or five men and women hoisted me up on the wooden crate I was standing on and carried it on their shoulders into the throng while laughing. Though at first I wouldn’t let go of the edges because I was afraid of losing my balance the rhythm made me rise up and my arms reached out towards the sky. In the music I felt the future was in me and my generation. I knew it was our turn to experience life.

In the morning we could most clearly hear it, like the last whispers of a dream only to be forgotten as the day began. Back then our country was known as the land of revival and also the land of song. The tune first came to me when Fannie Evans, who was just my height, approached me in a crowded hallway. She had tears streaming down her face and her hand was clutching a small silver cross dangling from a chain. She held it up to me with startling eye contact and immediately I fell to my knees, moaning and crying as my hands fell to the floor. Tears came flowing out unceasingly and wet the stone tile before me. She gently knelt and placed her hand on the broad side of my convulsing shoulder, then placed her cross in my hands. I too held it up and the tears became my testimony; I refused to wipe them away as I walked down the hallway sobbing. “Look!” I cried, and held it to the people passing my way. They too began crying. “Look at what He’s done for us!”

Only people who heard the song could’ve understood, although mostly everyone held it under their breath. They would find themselves humming during the day and when enough of them were together the chorus would come. Down in the coal mine echoes of the hymn repeated back and forth into the darkest depths as the men sang to the clashing of their picks. I remember one man, Evan Roberts, came out of the hole with a scorched bible having had a near-death experience. A lot of people died that day. He would keep us up far into the night sharing testimony after testimony and teaching us to walk in the spirit. People would pass along the street marveling that the church was still fully lit and saw us inside enraptured with the heaviness of his words. I can’t remember much now except the feeling I had while listening, and the image of him sitting before us with one soot-stained palm open to us and pointing to the ceiling. Every word he spoke seemed so carefully placed and his eyes prompted soberness.

As we reached the peak crescendo nearly everyone in town had been swept up. It was as if a torrential rain had been filling our streets all that time. All the creeks which had normally only trickled underfoot had become mighty rivers that tugged even the obstinate. On most evenings everyone was going to church in great crowds, singing as they walked. They’d even knock on doors along the way inviting people to come along with them. The pubs were mostly all empty with only one man sitting gloomily at the bar. The husband and wife who owned it were standing at the counter marveling a how few customers had been coming. They talked and joked with this one man while pointing out the window to all those ridiculous fools singing in the dark, secretly bemoaning such a trend had come during their life and was destroying their livelihood. “Look at them out there,” said the husband while placing the freshly wiped glasses upon the wall, “like ignorant children after the pied piper!” His wife and the man smiled. “They really have nothing better to do on a Thursday night? No sweetheart to cuddle? No friends to hang out with? I’d rather be dead then get pulled along with the likes of them.” They were all laughing and as a particularly loud group of singers passed by he grabbed one of the glasses and took it with him to the door. “Get away from here!” he shrieked with vehemence and chucked the glass hard into the dispersing crowd. The man seated at the bar was shocked. For a moment he saw the man’s rage and was disgusted, then recognized that same hate and wretchedness was in his own heart. Without a word, he dropped his coin at the counter, walked outside, and joined with the crowds who gathered around him placing their hands on his shoulders and singing, walking on towards the church lit brightly on the hill.

Copyright 2015 Jason S Cooper
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