March 09, 2007

The Measures of Welsh Poetry: Part One: Cynghanedd

Weaving

A. Cynghanedd
This is a series of four parts that covers:
Cynghanedd ;
• the Englyn ;
• the Cywydd ;
• and the Awdl .

1. Cynghanedd Groes (Criss-cross Harmony) (or Cynghanedd Drychben (Chief Mirror Harmony)?)
Where all the consonants appear in the same order before the main stress at the end of each half of the line. Each half of the line ends with an unaccented syllable. Here there is a kind of mirroring of consonant sounds.
E.G. Môr o jam yw Meri Jên. (A sea of jam is Meri Jên).
m r j / m r j
(with stress on ‘jam’ and ‘Jên’)

Spaghetti westerns, spies, ghettos, whist turns.
sp gh t w st rns / sp gh t w st rns
(This English example is not exactly accurate. See comments below. If you can think of a better example, please let me know).

a. Cynghanedd Groes Gytbwys Ddiacen (Unaccented Balanced Criss-cross Harmony)
The stresses are in exactly the same position in both halves of the line.

b. Cynghanedd Groes o Gysswyllt (Cross of Connection Harmony)
Like b, but the repetition of consonants is not neatly balanced between two halves of the line, but begins before the main pause.
E.G. Terrifically terse, the raft cells.
t r f c ll / t r(s) (th) r f(t) c ll.
(This English example is not exactly accurate. See comments below. If you can think of a better example, please let me know).

2. Cynghanedd Draws (Bridging Harmony)
Like Cynghanedd Groes, but the two sets of consonants are separated by consonants which are not repeated.
E.G. Mae ynom, bawb, ddymuniad (There is in us, every one, a longing)
m n /b b dd/ m n
(with the stresses on the first syllable of ‘ynom’ and the second syllable of ‘dymuniad’)

Read in books, so soon, ridden back.

3. Cynghanedd Sain (Tonal Harmony)
Here there is a development of a sound from the first main word to the second main word and the second main word chimes slightly differently with the third main word:
E.G. Hen linell bell nad yw’n bod (An old line faraway that doesn’t exist)
ell / b ell / (n d n) b
(A rhyme binds the first two parts of the line and consonantal chiming balances the second and third part).

The passion will fashion the fascists.
(This English example is not exactly accurate. See comments below. If you can think of a better example, please let me know).

4. Cynghanedd Lusg (Drag Harmony)
Here the syllable at the end of the first half of the line and the penultimate syllable rhyme.
E.G. A saint in an old painting. OR. The man so great and his irate wife (Note that strictly the last word should be of more than one syllable).


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  1. ?

    thats really complicated!!

    31 Mar 2007, 18:20

  2. Yes, it certainly is. But the englyn, cywydd and awdl are even more so. But these forms can be experimented with and some rules can be broken at first while still learning.

    01 Apr 2007, 18:08

  3. Gwybedyn

    I’m confused by the description of croes o gyswllt. I’d always thought that such a cynghanedd ‘borrowed’ a consonant from the end of the first half, to complete the consonance in the second half, such as:

    Rhowch dynerwch dan eira
    r ch d n ’ (r ch d n ‘r

    i.e. the ‘r’ of ‘dynerwch’ is both the final consonant of the first half as well as the first consonant of the second half.

    the example given here, “Terrifically terse, the raft cells” doesn’t seem to me to contain any kind of cynghanedd. It scans as t r f k l t ’ / th r f t s ’ which gives no consonance to form cynghanedd, since the main rule of cynghanedd is that all consonants which are echoed must be echoed in the same order around the (different) stressed vowel, and without any other intervening consonants. Your analysis of the line suggests, in addition to the (unpermitted) skipping of three consonants, that the on the left hand side is answered by the on the right hand side, which can’t be so since the first one is /k/ and the second /s/.

    “Spaghetti westerns, spies, ghettos, whist turns” is also, I think, problematic, for three reasons:

    the line is analysed thus: s p g t w ’ st and the second s p s g t s w s t’ n

    thus i) there are a number of sounds present in the second which are absent in the first
    ii) the accent of the final word falls before the /st/ in the first half, and after it in the second
    iii) the first half and second half of the line rhyme, which is a fault.

    Similarly, is there a problem with “the passion will fashion the fascists” in that fAshion and fAscists have the same stressed vowel?

    You are right, I think, to comment that in cynghanedd lusg the final word should be polysyllabic – this is because the principle of ‘llusg’ is that the rhymed syllable should be the stressed syllable of the final word (i.e. the penultimate syllable).

    Diolch.

    31 May 2007, 21:11

  4. gwybedyn

    Unfortunately, the Kalliope website you provide a link to is almost entirely misrepresentative of the metres. Certainly, the interested reader would be far better served reading Mererid Hopwood’s book – though less than detailed, hers is an excellent (and correct) introduction to the ‘mesurau caeth’ and cynghanedd. There’s also a good brief introduction to the metres in an Appendix to Tony Conran’s book of translations, Welsh Verse (Bridgend), and perhaps the best English-language description of the various kinds of cynghanedd is in Euros Bowen’s Poems of the Cywyddwyr (Dublin).

    31 May 2007, 21:25

  5. Thanks for these comments. I dont have time to get back to you right now, but I will over the weekend. Just letting you know…

    01 Jun 2007, 09:29

  6. Dear Gwybedyn,

    Sorry that I have taken so long to get back to you. You said that you are confused by the description of croes o gyswllt. This is probably because I myself am a bit confused and I was hoping that somone like you would mail me and clear it up. I took the above definition from a fairly old book introducing Welsh forms of poetry. The other source that I used in writing up these forms is Singing in Chains, but I didn’t see anything specific there about Cynghanedd Groes o Gyswllt. If you have a better definition, please let me know. The other definitions were mainly taken from Singing in Chains.

    Some my examples in English are not so good, I know, but if you can think of a better example in English, please do tell me. You are right about all the problems in the English examples and you make me think that perhaps I should put in some Welsh examples. As I said, do tell me if you can think of better examples in English.

    You are right that the Kalliope website is not always accurate but it is unfortunately, the best website in English that I have found. If you know a better one, please do let me know. Thanks for signposting me to the other books that you mention. I will look these up.

    Thanks, Z.

    11 Jun 2007, 12:53

  7. Disraeli Greer

    Feri nais! Jyst wyn thing pysyls mi; haw dw iw se “Jones” yn Cornis?

    14 Aug 2007, 22:48


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