I first encountered him through my work on Kenneth Morris. Hodges first book was China Speaks (1941), published under the pseudonym of Cyril Hughes. It contains twenty-one poems translated from the Chinese of the T'ang period, all of which were based on the prose recensions made by Kenneth Morris, though Hodges did compare them with the work of other translators. Here is the final poem in the booklet:
by Wang Wei
Dawn after dawn . . . what is their sum?
That final dawn to which we come!
Spring after Spring . . . what should we praise?
The Spring preceding winter-days?
Night with its wings encloses all;
These roses wither, fade and fall:
If it must be that we decline,
Let it be sweetly . . . into wine;
And if Death’s seed in all must lie,
Let memory be the first to die!
His third collection was a card-covered booklet of eighteen poems, Remittances (1971), followed later that same year by Coming of Age, a collection of forty-one poems (my copy is a trade paperback, but there was also reportedly a casebound hardcover), with illustrations by Sue Shields. Two poems (“The Mead Song of Taliesin” and “Blodeuwedd”) are reprinted from Seeing Voice: Welsh Heart, but none come from Remittances. An introductory statement by the author notes that the book is “a gathering into one centre all the influences that have swayed me since I became fully conscious of being Anglo-Welsh.”
Pen RhysIn another poem from Coming of Age, “Instruction from the Magi,” Hodges recalls two people who taught him much. For one, he gives only the initials “J.E.” but the other he names as Cennydd (i.e., Cenydd, or Kenneth Morris):
Because a madness grew (and I am Welsh
And therefore mad with justice), I’ll be song
Spat out of rock and poverty,
Reprieved from balancing of right and wrong.
I’ll be amoral as the rain-washed stone
On bleak Pen Rhys, and whistle with the wind,
Grass-bent and empty of desire:
To have desired at all is to have sinned.
I’ll reach an age where nothing matters more
Than the cold rage of being; and I know
The condemnation and the praise
Are truly nothing should that wind blow.
. . . Cennydd, you incited me
With prophecies and predictions
Of freedom. Now you are safely dead and freed
From the blame the half-dead bear alone.
And now begins that near-known meaning
Of wind whispering between empty stones.
. . .
I think that Cennydd knew my destiny, had read it
In the stone Book of Carnac: J.E. had plumbed
My bloodiness with a cunning knowledge.
Above all, they were never rational; but small
And frail and unconquerable men: they have taken my heart
To their graves that their blood may flow in the veins
And arteries of Wales. There will be battle,
Payment for the essential and the undesired mead.
I created a garden from the dry, cracked limestone
Of Morgannwg, and asked no more than the lies
Of comfortable Iolo, and Iestyn’s victory,
And the falsity of books upon a winter night.
Because of two dead men I must re-live Cattraeth,
Pay for the mead I did not drink, and see the glaze
Of staring English eyes in the blazing sun.
I wish I could know some peace again upon my borders,
Behind a flowering hedge taller than Englishmen.
I think that Cennydd knew my desity, had heard it
From the talking winds of Carnac: J.E. had heard
Some whisper of that wind and recognised the voice.
In an autobiographical note in Contemporary Poets (1970), edited by Rosalie Murphy, Hodges wrote a bit more about his association with Morris:
“Educated only to high school standard, but thereafter was fortunate to meet Dr. Cenydd Morus and to study Welsh literature with him. His tuition civilised, formulated and gave some unity of purpose to what would otherwise have remained an unresolved flux of callow prejudices. He was eminent in everything except fame, content to impart his knowledge freely to one who shared his own delight in that knowledge."
Morris died in 1937, when Hodges was twenty-two. Hodges afterwards married and had three sons. In later years he lived in Penarth, and was friends with Kenneth Morris’s executor, Alex E. Urquhart, who in his nineties aided me in my work on Morris, and shared with me Hodges's booklets and poems after I visited him in Penarth in 1992. At that time he showed me Morris’s desk, which he still had and used, as it had come to him after Morris’s death fifty-five years earlier.
Note: I also keep an occasional blog on Kenneth Morris here.