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Date: 22/11/17

"Angau, 'r Wyt Ti'n Fy Ofni I" / "Death, You Are Afraid Of Me"

England flag indicating that there's an English translation of this piece

Llun o Bobi Jones yn traddodi / A photo of Bobi Jones giving a lecture

Robert Maynard Jones
Bardd, Awdur, Beirniad Llenyddol, Ysgolhaig
g. 20 Mai 1929, f. 22 Tachwedd 2017

Robert Maynard Jones
Poet, Author, Literary Critic, Scholar
b. 20 May 1929, d. 22 November 2017


Fel yr wyf wedi sylwi o'r blaen, y mae'n rhaid i aelodau diwylliant bach, 'lleiafrifol' fod yn amryddawn. Prin y bu neb yn ein diwylliant ni mor amrywiol nac mor ddylanwadol na Bobi Jones.

Dyma ddyn a ddaeth i'r amlwg ar ddiwedd pumdegau'r ganrif ddiwethaf fel 'plentyn anystywall' lln efo'i gerddi heriol (fel y gerdd a roddodd i mi deitl y rhith hwn o deyrnged) a'i ryddiaith beiddgar; a ddaeth wedyn yn arbennigwr ar theori beirniadaeth lenyddol, yn Athro prifysgol o'r radd flaenaf, yn awdur toreithiog, ac yn hyrwyddwr brwd i fentrau ag oedd 'r bwriad o gau'r bylchau rhwng y Cymry Cymraeg a'r di-Gymraeg.

Y mae cymaint o bobl sydd yn fwy cymwys na fi i draddodi ar ei gyfraniad di-derfyn i'n bywyd cenedlathol ni; felly, canolbwyntiaf yma ar ambell i atgof personol, ohono fo a hefyd ohonof innau pan oeddwn yn llanc diog, di-ddim dan ei nawdd academaidd.

Canys Bobi Jones oedd pennaeth Adran Y Gymraeg yng Ngholeg Prifysgol Cymru, Aberystwth (fel y'i gelwyd hi ar y pryd) tra yr oedd Eich Barnwr yn fyfyriwr yn yr Adran honno yn hanner cyntaf yr wythdegau.

Dyn tawel ydoedd wrth ddarlithio, ond yr oedd cadernid ei gymeriad yn amlwg er hynny, yn ogystal 'r bwrlwm o syniadau a gweledigaethau ddaeth o'i eiriau. Yr oedd yn darlithio'r cwrs 'Seiliau Beirniadaeth Lenyddol', cwrs a oedd braidd yn wahanol i bob un arall i mi bm arnynt, gan fod yr arholiadau tuag at radd yn digwydd un pob diwedd tymor dros y ddwy flynedd olaf yn hytrach nac ar y diwedd oll. Cofiaf sefyll un o'r 'arholiadau' hyn - a gynhwysodd dim ond un traethawd ar bob achlysur - yn ei ystafell breifat ei hun yn yr Hen Goleg gan i mi orfod teithio draw i Iwerddon cyn i'r tymor ddirwyn i'w ben yn swyddogol.

Ni allaf hawlio i mi ddysgu llawer ar y cwrs (er mai dyna oedd y tro cyntaf, tybiwn, i mi ddod o hyd i enw Noam Chomsky, blynyddoedd lawer cyn i mi ddod i sylweddoli maint ei gyfraniad ef at ein dealltwriaeth o'n byd modern, celwyddgar), ond arnaf i yn unig y bu'r bai am hynny; bm yn fyfyriwr gwael, di-fynd a di-hid, a bm felly ar bob un cwrs, nid cwrs Bobi yn unig. Yn wir, ac yntau'n bennaeth ar yr Adran, y peth hawsaf iddo fuasai fy hyrddio gerfydd fy ngholer allan o'r Hen Goleg ac i donnau gwyllt y mr gerllaw. Ond dyn caredig a goddefgar ei natur oedd Bobi Jones ac, rhywsut, llwyddais i oroesi hyd y diwedd ac achub gradd o'r llanastr. Ychydig blynyddoedd wedyn, cefais gip 'answyddogol' ar gyfeir-lythyr a ysgrifenodd at ddarpar-gyflogwr; ynddo, dywedodd mai diffyg hunan-hyder a diffyg annogaeth o'r iawn ryw oedd ar fai am fy ngwendidau a ffaeleddau. Buasai ganddo reswm da i ddweud y gwir plaen - sef fy mod yn fastard bach diog - ond ceisiodd weld y gorau hyd yn oed yn y deunydd lleiaf addawol. Ni wn ai oherwydd ei dueddiadau crefyddol oedd y caredigrwydd hwn; ond gwisgodd ei ffydd fel y gwisgodd ei ysgolheictod - yn ysgafn ac yn ddi-rwysg.

(Yn sgl darllen y llythyr, ceisiais ddarllen ei magnum opus barddonol Hunllef Arthur - yr holl 21000 o linellau ohoni - fel rhyw fath o benyd (yr oeddwn yn mynd trwy gyfnod o grefydd-dra ar y pryd, ond o naws Gatholig yn hytrach na'r math efyngylaidd a fabwysiadodd y bardd yn oedolyn); ond unwaith yn rhagor, yr oeddwn yn annigonol at y pwrpas.)

Tri awydd yn bennaf a ysgogodd Bobi Jones; i greu, i gynhyrchu, i gysylltu. Ac fe wnaeth, yn ddi-os.

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As I have remarked before, members of small, 'minority' cultures have to be versatile. Scarcely has there been anyone in our culture as various or as influential as Bobi Jones.

Here was a man who came to prominence at the end of the fifties of the last century as a literary enfant terrible with his challenging poems (such as the one which has provided me with the title of this scrap of tribute) and his daring prose; who then became an expert in the theories of literary criticism, a university Professor of the first rank, a prodigious author, and an enthusiastic supporter of ventures designed to bridge the gap between those who speak our nation's language and those who don't.

There are so many people who are far better qualified to address his boundless contribution to our national life that I will instead concentrate here on one or two personal memories, both of him and of myself when I was a lazy, good-for-nothing youth under his academic tutelage.

Because Bobi Jones was the head of the Department of Welsh in University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (as it was called at the time) whilst Yer Judge was a student in that department in the first half of the eighties.

He was a quiet man in his lectures, but the firmness of his character shone through despite, along with the avalanche of ideas and perceptions which came from his words. He took the 'Basics Of Literary Criticism' course, one which was somewhat different to all the others I was on, in that the examinations towards the degree took place one at each term's end over the two years, rather than having one big one right at the end. I remember sitting one of these 'exams' - which always contained just one essay - in his private room in the Old College because I had to travel over to Ireland before the official end of term.

I can't claim that I learned very much on the course (although I suspect that that was the first time I'd come across the name of Noam Chomsky, many years before I came to realise the size of his contribution to our understanding of our modern, mendacious world), but that was my fault and mine alone; I was a wretched, shiftless, heedless student, as I was on all the courses I did, not just Bobi's. Indeed, as Head of Department, it would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to have hurled me by my collar out of the Old College and into the wild waves of the adjacent sea. But Bobi Jones was a man of a kindly and tolerant nature and, somehow, I managed to survive to the end to rescue a degree from the ruins. A few years later, I managed to get a clandestine look at a letter of reference which he had written to a prospective employer; in it, he said that it was a lack of self-confidence and a lack of encouragement of the appropriate kind which were to blame for any weakness or failings I had. He would have had sound reason to speak the plain truth - that I was a lazy little bastard - but he tried to see good in even the most unpromising material. Whether this was due to his religious convictions, I don't know; but he wore his faith as he did his scholarship - lightly and without fuss.

(After I read the letter, I tried to read his poetic magnum opus Hunllef Arthur (Arthur's Nightmare) - all 21000 lines of it - as some sort of act of penitence (I was in a dangerously religious frame of mind at the time, although of a distinctly Catholic bent rather than the Evangelism the poet adopted as an adult), but once again I proved to be unequal to the task.)

Three desires more than anything else motivated Bobi Jones; to create, to produce, to connect. And he undoubtedly did.