February 13, 2007

Cynghanedd and the Englyn

Follow-up to Objectivism from ZoŽ Brigley: Teaching Blog


PLEASE NOTE: I have now posted a detailed guide to all the Welsh forms. This is a series of four parts that covers:
Cynghanedd ;
• the Englyn ;
• the Cywydd ;
• and the Awdl .

It is interesting to consider poetry that concentrates more on the music of the line and language than the actual meaning. Cynghanedd and the englyn are Welsh forms of poetry that do just this. There is a very good webite on these forms at the Kalliope Website or you could buy Mererid Hopwood’s excellent book, Singing in Chains .

Meanwhile, here is a very basic explanation. The Welsh poetic line often uses Cynghanedd (meaning Harmony) or as it is sometimes known, Canu Caeth (Captured Song). Here are a few kinds. There are more on the Kalliope website.

1. Cynghanedd Lusg (Drag Harmony)

Here the second syllable and first syllable of the penultimate word rhyme.

eg. The great man and his irate wife…

2. 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. The passion will fashion the fascists.

3. Cyngahnedd Drychben (Chief Mirror Harmony)

Here there is a kind of mirroring of consonant sounds.

Spaghetti westerns, spies, ghettos, whist turns.
sp gh t w st rns / sp gh t w st rns


A Simple Form of Englyn

The englyn is another form of syllabic poetry. Written in a verse of four lines, it contains thirty syllables and is usually organised in the following pattern:

Line 1: 10 syllables
Line 2: 6 syllables
Line 3: 6 syllables
Line 4: 7 syllables

The seventh or eighth syllable of line 1 rhymes with the last syllables of lines 2-3. There should also be a rhyme/chime between the last syllable of line one and syllable 2/3 of line 2. There is usually cynghanedd in the lines too.

Here is an example:

R. Williams-Parry
O ryfedd dorf ddi-derfysg y meirwon
 gwymon yn gymysg!
Parlyrau’r perl, erwau’r pysg
Yw bedd disgleirdeb addysg.

In Memoriam – to a sailor
In a strange, unclamorous host, the dead
And the seaweed tangle;
Pearl parlours, acres of fish
Are tomb to learning’s splendour.

But you don’t really get a sense of the wonderful sounds if you don’t understand the Welsh, so here is an englyn that I have been working on in English. It bends some of the rules but it may give you a sense of the effect that I want you to aim for:

Zoë Brigley
The Wives’ Englyn to Malinche
Amidst raw livers rives stumped cedar,
livened knot of knitted hives;
branches sing of broaching scythes,
prizes stung by priesting wives.


Further Reading
Cywydd and Cynghanedd
General Characteristics of Welsh Poetry
JP Ward on Cynghanedd

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. owen

    Illuminating! Thanks

    14 Sep 2007, 17:21

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