Englyn (plural englynion) is a traditional Welsh and Cornish short poem form. It uses quantitative metres, involving the counting of syllables, and rigid patterns of rhyme and half rhyme. Each line contains a repeating pattern of consonants and accent known as cynghanedd.
The Eight Types
There are eight types of englynion. Details of their structures are given below.
Also known as the short-ended englyn. It consists of a verse of three lines. The first line has ten syllables and the other two have seven each. The seventh, eighth or ninth syllables of the first line introduces the rhyme and this is repeated on the last syllable of the other two lines. The fourth syllable of the second line echoes the final syllable of the first through either rhyme or consonance.
The soldier's englyn. This consists of three seven-syllable lines. All three lines rhyme.
Englyn unodl union
The straight one-rhymed englyn. This consists of four lines of ten, six, seven and seven syllables. The seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the first line introduces the rhyme and this is repeated on the last syllable of the other three lines. The part of the first line after the rhyme alliterates with the first part of the second line.
This is an englyn unodl union:
Ym Mhorth oer y Merthyron – y merthyr
Mwya'i werth o ddigon
A hir-fawrha y fro hon
Wr dewr o Aberdaron
Englyn unodl crwca
The crooked one-rhyme englyn. This englyn is made up of four lines of seven, seven, ten and six syllables. The last syllable of the first, second and last lines rhyme and seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the third line all rhyme.
This version has four lines of seven syllables each. The final syllables of the first second and last line rhyme. The last syllable of the third line rhymes with the second, third or fourth syllable of the last line.
Englyn proest dalgron
In this englyn, there are four seven-syllable lines that half rhyme with each other.
This is identical to the englyn proest dalgron except that the half rhymes must use the ae, oe, wy, and ei diphthongs.
Englyn proest gadwynog
The chain half-rhyme englyn. In this version there are four lines of seven syllables. The first and third lines rhyme and the second and fourth half rhyme on the same vowel sound as the full rhyme syllables.
The novelist Robertson Davies once said that englyns were an old enthusiasm of his. He said that the form was derived by the Welsh from the inscriptions on Roman tombs in Wales. According to him, englyns must have four lines, the first one having ten syllables, then six, then the last two having seven syllables each. In the first line there must be a break after the seventh, eighth, or ninth syllable, and the rhyme with the second line comes at this break; but the tenth syllable of the first line must either rhyme or be in assonance with the middle of the second line. The last two lines must rhyme with the first rhyme in the first line, but the third or fourth line must rhyme on a weak syllable.
Source: Davies, "Haiku and Englyn", _Toronto Daily Star_, 4 April 1959, in _The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies_, 1990.
Here are two englynion by the 12th century Welsh poet Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr:
- Balch ei fugunawr ban nafawr ei lef
- pan ganer cyrn cydawr;
- corn Llyelyn llyw lluydfawr
- bon chang blaen hang bloed fawr.
- Corn wedi llad corn llawen
- corn llugynor Llywlyn
- corn gwyd gwr hydr ai can
- corn meinell yn ol gellgwn
Here is an English language englyn by novelist Robertson Davies.
The Old Journalist
- He types his laboured column--weary drudge!
- Senile, fudge and solemn;
- Spare, editor, to condemn
- These dry leaves of his autumn.
Grace in the form of an englyn (with cynghanedd shown).
- O Dad, yn deulu dedwydd - Y deuwn (Dad & dedwydd, d<accent>d repeated)
- A diolch o'r newydd, (deuwn & diolch, d<accent> repeated)
- Cans o'th law y daw bob dydd (law & daw rhyming, daw & dydd, d<accent> repeated, cynghanedd sain)
- Ein lluniaeth a'n llawenydd. (ein lluniaeth & a'n llawenydd, ll<accent>n repeated)
- Rhys, John (1905), "The Origin of the Welsh Englyn and Kindred Metres", in Evans, E. Vincent, Y Cymmrodor, XVIII, Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, pp. 1–185