DaffodilsCategory: Land + People
By R. Llewellyn
The first thing I saw was the slag heap.
Big it had grown, and long, black, without life or sign, lying along the bottom of the Valley on both sides of the river. The green grass, and the reeds and the flowers, all had gone, crushed beneath it. And every minute the burden grew, as cage after cage screeched along the cables from the pit, bumped to a stop at the tipping pier, and emptied dusty loads on to the ridged, black, dirty back.
On our side of the Valley the heap reached to the front garden walls of the bottom row of houses, and children from them were playing up and down the black slopes, screaming and shouting, laughing in fun. On the other side of the river the chimney-pots of the first row of houses could only just be seen above the sharp curving back of the far heap, and all the time I was watching, the cable screeched and the cages tipped. From the Britannia pit came a call on the hooter as the cages came up, as though to remind the Valley to be ready for more filth as the work went on and on, year in and year out. “Is the pit allowed to do this to us, Mr. Gruf- fydd?” I asked him. “Do what, my son?’ Mr. Gruffydd asked.
“Put slag by here,” I said.
“Nowhere else to put it, my son,” he said. “Look up by there at the top of the mountain, by the Glas Fryn. There are the daffodils, see.”
And indeed, there they were, with their green leaves, a darker sharpness in the grass about them, and the yellow blooms belling in the wind, up by the Glas Fryn and all along the Valley, as far as I could turn my head to see.
Gold may be found again, and men may know its madness again, but no one shall know how I felt to see the goldness of daffodils growing up there that morning. The Glas Fryn was the nearest place to our house where they grew. It was later that I pulled bulbs to grow in our garden, but the garden was so small and the earth so blind with dust from the slag that they gave up trying and died.
But that morning Mr. Gruffydd put me down among them all, close to them, where I could take them in my hands to breathe the cool breath of them and give thanks to God.
Below us, the river ran sweet as ever, happy in the sun, but as soon as it met the darkness between the slopping walls of slag it seemed to take fright and go spiritless, smooth, black, without movement. And on the other side it came forth grey, and began to hurry again, as though anxious to get away. But its banks were stained, and the reeds and grasses that dressed it were hanging, and black, and slicky, ashamed of their dirtiness, ready to die of shame, they seemed, and of sorrow for their dear friend, the river.
From How Green was My Valley, N Y, 1945.