Calon Lân

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Calon Lân is a Welsh hymn, the words of which were written in the 1800s by Daniel James (23 January 1848 – 11 March 1920) to a tune by John Hughes (1872-1914).

The hymn is very rarely performed in churches. It’s more often associated with Welsh rugby union, being sung before almost every Test match involving the Welsh national team.

“Calon Lân” is unusual among the most popular Welsh traditional hymns and songs in that an English version of the words is not commonly sung. This English version is one I wrote and was set to music by Arthur Bellis of Burnage. It is performed on a regular basis by choirs, and has been featured on the Russell Watson album, Anthems: Music to Inspire a Nation and on the BBC Songs of Praise (4/3/2012) where it was used for the subtitles to the Welsh version sung by Only Boys Aloud.

Calon Lân English Translation
An arrangement of these lyrics has been made by Arthur Bellis

I’d not ask a life that’s easy,
Gold and pearls so little mean,
Rather seek a heart that’s joyful,
Heart that’s honest, heart that’s clean

Heart that’s clean and filled with virtue,
Fairer far than lilies white,
Only pure hearts praise God truly,
Praise him all the day and night.

Why should I seek earthly treasures,
On swift wings they fly away,
Pure clean hearts bring greater riches
That for life eternal stay.

Dawn and sunset still I’m searching,
Rising on a wing of song,
Give me Lord, through Christ my Saviour
That clean heart for which I long.

Translation ©Malcolm Cowen 2008


26 Responses to Calon Lân

  1. Monica says:

    Had a very uplifting “Songs of Praise” at our Hymn Singing festival in Llanidloes last night.
    Your translation of “Calon Lan” raised the roof, alongside hymns by Charles Wesley, Ann Griffiths and other hymnwriters. Thanks for the inspiring words.

  2. Jeanette Hawrot says:

    Dear Malcolm
    Your words have really enlightened our understanding of this most beautiful of Welsh songs. We would be very grateful if you would give your permission for us to use the words at our daughters wedding on 26th May this year. Anna and her fiancée live in England, but are coming home to Wales to get married. Calon Lan is their choice and to have the English translation will bring the wonderful meaning to life for many of us who are not Welsh speakers. We will of course acknowledge your work in the order of service.

    Thanks for considering this request.


  3. Dear Roger,
    I shall soon become Master of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers and have been asked to propose the hymns for our Robing Service at St. Vedast-alias-Foster in the City of London, with a special request that the choice should reflect that I am proudly Welsh. I would very much like to include Calon Lan, a childhood favourite, and your wonderful English translation, with your permission of course.
    The Plaisterers Company is a not for profit organisation engaged in charitable fund raising and promoting craft/trade education. Best wishes, Michael

  4. Vincent (Gamesley) says:

    I’m planning to use your translation of ‘Calon Lan’ in a couple of nursing homes this week and next. I hope that’s OK with you and I hope you’re keeping well. ‘Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus’ – for March 1st. Vincent

  5. Thankyou for making this translation available for use in worship – we hope to sing it tomorrow evening at our service in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Hubberston, Milford Haven. It was mentioned last week re the Six Nations and it being a prayer for a pure heart.

  6. Lieut. Colonel Malcolm Snell (Rtd) - Salvation Army says:

    I have loved this song for years, but never knew what the words meant. To have your translation is a great inspiration. So thank you very much.

    I am speaking at the Pontrhydyrun Baptist Church Senior Citizens’ meeting on Monday
    next and would love to use your English version – if I may? I will give all the credit to you, of course.


  7. admin says:

    Hi Paul,
    No problem, as long as the Welsh lot don’t object to singing in a foreign language!

    And best wishes for the wedding.


  8. Paul says:


    A fantastic arrangement. Would it be possible to use it at our Engalnd meets Wales wedding in March? We will of course credit the translation!

    Kind regards,


  9. Roger Powell says:

    Your lovely translation is worthy of this wonderful tune and I wonder if we could sing it at our Songs of Praise service in March at St Bartholomew’s Church Tardebigge. Of course we would acknowledge your work because we appreciate what you have done.

    Roger Powell

    • Malcolm says:

      Hi Roger,
      Yes, no problem. I looked at your church website, and I assume it is for one of your 5th Sunday “Songs of Praise” meetings.

      I am very happy to see my translation used for any non-commercial use, or to have it broadcast on any local not-for-profit radio.

      Please let me know when the “Songs of Praise” service is.


  10. Berwick Male Voice Choir says:

    The Berwick Male Voice Choir performed a new arrangement of Calon Lan (using this translation) Friday 25th October 2013 in St Andrew’s Wallace Green Church, Berwick-upon-Tweed. This event was in aid of the 10th Anniversary of the local hospice (Marsden House)

  11. Aurora ladies choir says:

    The Aurora ladies choir will be singing your translation at their concert 25th May 2013 at the Winding Wheel, Chesterfield.

  12. Vincent says:

    Hello, I found your version of ‘Calon Lan’ through Wikipedia. If it’s OK with you I’m going to use it in church in Gamesley on Sunday, after having sung the first verse and chorus in Welsh. Browsing your site took me to ‘Love song to ‘Ar hyd y nos’. My wife and I are having a sixtieth birthday party soon. Can I have your permission to sing it with a few adaptions (eg. Caroline instead of Beryl)?

  13. ST says:

    May we use this translation at our wedding

  14. Thomas says:

    I am from Manila, Philippines and I found this in You Tube. I do must say this is the most beautiful song I have ever heard and it has moved me deeply and has brought me to tears every time I listen to it. It isn’t easy listening to the song as a very close and dear friend who was English/Welsh had passed away last August and it has been most difficult for me since. He had asked me to find this song but I just couldn’t be bothered that time as I thought then how could one understand Welsh and appreciate it. After hearing and reading the English translation, it made me appreciate and love the song all the more and has made me regret to no end not looking for this when asked. The translation has given the song an even more profound meaning for us who do not speak Welsh. The boys did a superb rendition of it. I have ordered their CD and should be getting it any time now. Thank you very much.

  15. revenna grimes says:

    This is one of the most beautiful tunes I have ever heard. Without even knowing the meaning of the words I play it over and over. Thank you for the English meaning, now the song will be even more special to me. Only Boys Aloud have done an outstanding version of this lovely song!

  16. Peter Foster says:

    I am giving a talk at my Churches Tuesday Fellowship meeting and would like to get the ladies to sing your translation of Calon Lan, there are only about 8 ladies who attend the meeting. I do hope that I can have your permission to do this, I will, of course, give creditation to you for this translation. Thanks

  17. Mark, South Molton says:

    It went down very well thanks – lots of people saying that they had heard the tune so many but did not realise what the words meant.

  18. Shirley from Surrey says:

    We would very much like to use your words for Calon Lan at my father’s funeral, as it was one of his favourite tunes.

  19. I came across your brilliant translation in the Wikipedia entry about the song, and was wondering if you would be happy for me to include your version in my account, with appropriate attribution and thanks.

  20. Kingsbridge Methodist, Devon, UK says:

    Our congregation enjoyed it very much.

  21. Jim Anderson, Advent United Methodist Church Address; Eagan, Minnesota says:

    Thank you for your English translation of Calon Lan; I will be using it for the final service of our pastor…. Our men’s ensemble called A-Men will be singing it in the “Only Boys Aloud” fashion…I only wish we had as many as they!

  22. Quezon City Philippines says:

    CALON LAN song so AMAZING , every time to play this song I’m always cry every words or lyrics of this song so very touching.

  23. British Columbia says:

    Its so faithful to the piety in the original and so historically consistent with the original.

  24. Wessex says:

    Just want to say thank you for making lyrics and translation for Calon Lan available on internet.

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