Well it’s legal history of a sort – a penal poem from Welsh newspaper Y Drych. Felt like a bit of amateur translation. Can’t reproduce the effect of formal Welsh verse, but a rough and ready translation of this 1893 poem by Hugh Jones (Vet) would, I think, be …
The gaol: an old, bare, tight locked house,
with a dreadful look about it;
destination of criminals, traitors
and the torturer.
I think we are getting the convict-gaoler all trapped together, matter of chance which side of the bars one is on vibe, well known to watchers of gritty modern police/detective shows.
There is another layer to poems about prison in Welsh, which is that strict-rules poetry writing (so, so hard!) is called canu caeth, caeth referring to confinement or chaining. So rather appropriate for such subject matter.
Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash
Oh dear, yet another muddled bit of journalism, pushing the tired ‘anything bad can be called medieval’ line. Simon Jenkins’s piece in the Guardian today makes a sensible overall point about the pointlessness, at best, of most incarceration. But he can’t help himself from going down the easy, lazy route of calling bad things ‘medieval’.
‘Except for dangerously violent individuals, imprisonment is a medieval hangover, a world of clanging gates, yelling guards and filthy cells, the sole purpose being to “teach ’em a lesson”. ‘
Why is this important? Well calling Bad Things ‘medieval’ insults and ‘others’ the long dead, and annoys academics working on medieval matters. In the case of this particular Bad Thing, It is also just inaccurate, in that mass incarceration as punishment for serious offences, in great big fortressy institutions is more properly laid at the feet of the Victorians than medieval people. Likewise, if the point is about the poor conditions, or solitary confinement, then that is not something which is specifically ‘medieval’. There is a big, important, point that is missed, in labelling such Bad Things medieval, and that is that it plays down the connection between the Bad Thing and a particular, later, mode of societal organisation – capitalism. Prison policy, in the nineteenth century and today, is deeply connected to capitalism. It helps nobody to ignore that.