Englyn (pronounced [ˈɛŋ.lɪn]; 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.
- 1 Early history
- 2 Types of englynion
- 3 Examples
- 4 See also
- 5 References
The englyn is found in the work of the earliest attested Welsh poets (the cynfeirdd), where the main types are the three-line englyn milwr and englyn penfyr. It is the only set stanzaic metre found in the early Welsh poetic corpus, and explanations for its origins have tended to focus on stanzaic Latin poetry and hymns; however, it is as likely to be a development within the Brittonic poetic tradition. Whereas the metrical rules of later englynion are clear (and are based on counting syllables), the precise metre of the early englynion is debated and could have involved stress-counting. The earliest englynion are found as marginalia written in a tenth-century hand in the Juvencus Manuscript. Many early englynion form poems which seem to represent moments of characters' emotional reflection in stories now lost: Canu Llywarch Hen, Canu Urien, Canu Heledd. Others survey heroic tradition, for example the Englynion y Beddau or Geraint son of Erbin, and others again are lyric, religious meditations and laments such as the famous Claf Abercuawg and Kyntaw geir.
Types of englynion
There are a number of types of englynion. Details of their structures are as follows; however not all of these are included in the Traditional Welsh poetic metres.
Also known as the short-ended englyn. It consists of a stanza of three verses. The first verse has ten syllables and the other two have seven each. The seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the first verse introduces the rhyme and this is repeated on the last syllable of the other two verses. The fourth syllable of the second verse echoes the final syllable of the first through either rhyme or consonance.
The soldier's englyn. This consists of three seven-syllable verses. All three verses rhyme.
Englyn unodl union
The straight one-rhymed englyn. This consists of four verses of ten, six, seven and seven syllables. The seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the first verse introduces the rhyme and this is repeated on the last syllable of the other three verses. The part of the first verse after the rhyme alliterates with the first part of the second verse.
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
— Alan Llwyd
Englyn unodl crwca
The crooked one-rhyme englyn. This englyn is made up of four verses of seven, seven, ten and six syllables. The last syllables of the first, second and last verses and the seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the third verse all rhyme.
This version has four verses of seven syllables each. The final syllables of the first second and last verse rhyme. The last syllable of the third verse rhymes with the second, third or fourth syllable of the last verse.
Englyn proest dalgron
In this englyn, there are four seven-syllable verses that half-rhyme with each other (half-rhyme means that the final consonants agree).
This is identical to the englyn proest dalgron except that the half rhymes must use the ae, oe, wy, and ei diphthongs.
Englyn proest cadwynog
The chain half-rhyme englyn. In this version there are four verses of seven syllables. The first and third verses rhyme and the second and fourth half rhyme on the same vowel sound as the full rhyme syllables.
Englyn proest cyfnewidiog
The reciprocal half-rhyme englyn. This has four verses of seven syllables. All four verses half-rhyme, and there is additional cynghanedd.
This is a hybrid between an englyn and a toddaid. The first two verses are as for an englyn, and there follow two more verses of ten syllables each.
After the first two verses there is just one more verse of three syllables or fewer, which follows the rhyme of the first two verses.
The novelist Robertson Davies once said that englynion 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, englynion 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 Llywelyn llyw lluydfawr
Bon ehang blaen hang bloed fawr.
Corn wedi llad corn llawen
Corn llugynor Llywelyn
Corn gwyd gwydr ai can
Corn rueinell 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) in a poem by W. D. Williams:
O Dad, yn deulu dedwydd – Y deuwn [Dad and dedwydd, d<accent>d repeated]
A diolch o'r newydd, [deuwn and diolch, d<accent> repeated]
Cans o'th law y daw bob dydd [law and daw rhyming, daw and dydd, d<accent> repeated, cynghanedd sain]
Ein lluniaeth a'n llawenydd. [ein lluniaeth and a'n llawenydd, ll<accent>n repeated]
O Father, as a happy family – we shall come
And give thanks anew
For Thy hand giveth each day
Our sustenance and our joy.
- Rowland, Jenny, Early Welsh Saga Poetry: A Study and Edition of the Englynion (Cambridge: Brewer, 1990), p. 305.
- Rowland, Jenny, Early Welsh Saga Poetry: A Study and Edition of the Englynion (Cambridge: Brewer, 1990), pp. 305-8.
- Rowland, Jenny, Early Welsh Saga Poetry: A Study and Edition of the Englynion (Cambridge: Brewer, 1990), pp. 308-32.
- A Selection of Early Welsh Saga Poems, ed. by Jenny Rowland (London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2014), p. xxvi.
- 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
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