Cynghanedd

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In Welsh language poetry, cynghanedd (Welsh pronunciation: [kəŋ̊ˈhaneð], literally "harmony") is the basic concept of sound-arrangement within one line, using stress, alliteration and rhyme. The various forms of cynghanedd show up in the definitions of all formal Welsh verse forms, such as the awdl and cerdd dafod. Though of ancient origin, cynghanedd and variations of it are still used today by many Welsh-language poets. A number of poets have experimented with using cynghanedd in English-language verse, for instance Gerard Manley Hopkins. Some of Dylan Thomas' work is also influenced by cynghanedd.

Forms of cynghanedd[edit]

The first example below is from the poem Cywydd y Cedor, by the fifteenth-century female poet Gwerful Mechain. The caesuras are marked with slashes ("/") and rhyming parts are marked in bold. Note that Dd, Ll and Ch are single consonants (digraphs) in the Welsh alphabet.

Cynghanedd groes ("cross-harmony")[edit]

All consonants surrounding the main stressed vowel before the caesura must be repeated after it in the same order. However, the final consonants of the final words of each half of the line must be different, as must the main stressed vowel of each half. For example:

clawdd i ddal / cal ddwy ddwylaw
CL  Dd   Dd L / C L Dd   Dd  L

Here we see the pattern {c l dd dd [accent] l} present on both sides of the caesura. The stressed vowels are <a> (a short monophthong) and <wy> (the diphthong /uj/).

In cynghanedd groes there are no consonants in the second half of the line which are not part of the consonantal echoing. The vowels other than those under the stress may be of any kind.

Cynghanedd draws (partial "cross-harmony")[edit]

Exactly as in cynghanedd groes, except that there are consonants at the beginning of the second half of the line which are not present in the series of 'echoed' consonants:

Rhowch wedd wen dan orchudd iâ (R. Williams Parry) ['Place a white face under a veil of ice']

rh......ch......dd......../.(dn)..r.ch..dd

Here the consonant sequence {rh ch dd [accent]} is repeated with different stressed vowels (short <e> and long <â>). It will be noticed that the <n> at the end of the first half plays no part in the cynghanedd: the line-final word, "iâ" instead ends in a vowel; if this word also ended in an <n>, there would be generic rhyme between the two words, which is not permitted in cynghanedd.

Note that the {d n} of the second half of the line is also not part of the cynghanedd: this is the difference between cynghanedd groes and cynghanedd draws. There may be any number of unanswered consonants in this part of the line, as long as the initial sequence of consonants and accent is repeated; compare an extreme possibility, where only one syllable is repeated:

Pla ar holl ferched y plwyf! (Dafydd ap Gwilym) ['A plague on all the girls of the parish!']

pl./..(r......ll.f..r.ch..d)....pl

(Words beginning with h- are treated as beginning with a vowel.)

Cynghanedd sain ("sound-harmony")[edit]

The cynghanedd sain is characterised by internal rhyme. If the line is divided into three sections by its two caesuras, the first and second sections rhyme, and the third section repeats the consonantal patterns of the second. For example:

pant yw hwy / na llwy / na llaw
            / N  Ll   / N  Ll

Cynghanedd lusg ("drag-harmony")[edit]

The final syllable before the caesura in the first half of the line makes full rhyme with the penultimate syllable of the line-final polysyllabic word (i.e. the main stressed syllable of the second half). For example:

duw er ei radd / a'i addef,

Bibliography[edit]

  • Hopwood, Mererid (2004), Singing in Chains: Listening to Welsh Verse. Llandysul: Gomer. ISBN 1-84323-402-5.
  • Llwyd, Alan (2007), Anghenion y Gynghanedd. Barddas. ISBN 978-1-900437-98-1
  • Turco, Lewis (1986), The New Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics. University Press of New England: London. ISBN 0-87451-380-4.

External links[edit]

  • For an example of a poem in English using cynghanedd, see the poem by Katherine Bryant at the end of this page. Note, however, that the poem suffers from the usual awkwardness resulting from the attempt to force English into the Welsh patterns. The cynghanedd here is also either incomplete or faulty in lines 1,2,3,7,8,11,12,14.
  • A more thorough introduction to Welsh poetic forms[dead link]
  • Cynghanedd.com A website in Welsh devoted to the strict metres, where poets post their work and discuss.