Though beginning in English, I am going to end this post in Welsh, saying first that Rabindranath Tagore was a great Bengali thinker, Naig Rozmor one of very few women to write modern poetry in Breton in the 20th century, and St Pol de Léon the town, near Roscoff, in which I visited her last week. Her work I knew from time spent in libraries, also that she is now very old. So when I found a copy of her book in the market soon after landing, I asked where she now lived. Following directions to the old peoples’ home, I found Naig Rozmor, born 1923, in good physical health, though suffering from Alzeimer’s. I spoke with her in Breton, her native tongue, and opening the book, Evel Un Tantad (Like a Great Fire) (2005) on page 74, what should I find but a poem by Tagore translated by her into Breton. The poem is called Va bugel (My Child). Do you know it?
Ar y dechrau, cawn waith i gyfathrebu gyda Naig. Rhyw ymwelydd annisgwyl oeddwn i iddi, ond wrth weld y llyfr a chael amser i gael ei hanadl ati, fe ddechreuodd esmwytho, ac fe welwn ei llygaid yn goleuo. Dangosais yr enw iddi sydd ar glawr y llyfr. Ei henw hi. Ciledrych yn lled gellweirus arna i wnaeth hi, a dweud yn syml: ‘Dw i’n nabod honno’. Y gamp fawr oedd ei chael i lofnodi’r lllyr. ‘Ddaw hi byth i ben,’ meddai un o’r nyrsys diLydaweg. Ond dyfal donc oedd hi, ac erbyn i fi fynd o yna, roedd hi wedi torri’i henw tu fewn i’r clawr. Mi es yn ol i’r farchnad ar fy mhen, a dangos y gyfrol newydd ei llofnodi i’r dyn wrth y stondin. Synnu mawr fu.
I said I’d finish in Welsh, but no, just in case you didn’t get all that, Naig Rozmor signed the book for me. Then it was croissants and coffee. And, sitting in the sun, I read Tagore in Breton.