Awdl Gywydd

The Awdl Gywydd is a Welsh poetry form. Good luck pronouncing it. There are three predominate forms in Welsh Bardic Poetry, the Awdl, the Englyn, and the Cywydd. All three refer to a form and meter, but I don’t remember much about the specifics beyond my notes. Speaking of my notes, I think I’ve mentioned that I have collected various poetry forms for years from various sources, but I think I’ve failed to mention a major source which is The Shapes of Our Singing by Canadian Poet Robin Skelton. Although there were only a dozen or two forms that I had not previously known about, The Shapes of Our Singing is elegant in the simplicity of which it explains the various poetic structures it covers, and the examples provided are superb. And as it was the most recent poetic form guide I had read at the time I was compiling my notes (just after Lewis Turco’s The Book of Forms) I relied on it whenever I came to an occasional (but rare) conflict between various descriptions of a form or of correct Welsh spellings.

And one more note before I get to the Awdl Gywydd. If you are expecting me to present all 100 forms in alphabetical order, too bad. I actually only have 97 forms at this time. On my last perusal of my form list before I started this project I noticed that a handful of them were really similar, such as the Acrostic and the Telestich, so I combined those ones into one heading. Subsequently I ended up with less than my desired 100 forms and have found some new ones to add to the list. But, as I am still three short and have already begun posting them, any additions to the list may not make it into alphabetical order.

And as you might have guessed, I am procrastinating getting to the definition of the Awdl Gywydd because I have not been able to actually write one yet. I guess I’d better figure it out quick…

The Awdl Gywydd is a Welsh form consisting or one or more four line stanzas, each line being seven syllables apiece. It contains an end rhyme scheme of A,B,C,B and there are also inside rhymes in lines two and four, two is an A rhyme and four is a C rhyme.

in opposition to day
night trees play constellations
like maestros waving batons
Saint-Saens bursts with ovations

Beethoven applauds as well
though he can’t tell if its song
or silence or symphony
whispery night trees sing on

And as a bonus, here are some other common harmonies found in Welsh (and Irish) poetry. They must be easier to do in Welsh than in English, but they are useful exercises when exploring internal poetic rhythm.

Cynghanedd (which I think means Harmony in Welsh) is common to Welsh and Irish poetry:

Cynghanedd is focused on structure within individual lines.

In Cynghanedd Groes the line is split in half and the consonants in the first half repeat in the same order in the second half. (I tend to focus on the sound rather than the actual letter, so with a word like ‘beginning,’ I would just repeat the double ‘n’ once, and the ‘ng’ to me is one sound and would be repeated via an ‘ing’ word more often than I would use the ‘n’ and ‘g’ separate.)

    there were four of us … through war free of sea
    th r w r f r f s … th r w r f r f s

Cynghanedd Draws is similar to Groes except there is an extra group of consonants in the middle that is not repeated, usually no more than one or two syllables. (A variant of Cynghanedd Draws and Groes could be to repeat the consonants in reverse order.)

    all beginnings end, … so … lie, beg, knowing sand … will run out
    l b g n ng s nd … (middle) … l b g n ng s nd

In Cynghanedd Lusg the first half of the line rhymes with the second to last syllable of the second half of the line.

    and tonight … is right now

Cynghanedd Sain is a combination of either Groes or Draws with Lusg, so the line will contain both repeated consonants and internal rhyming.

    good fortune awaits … go, defy our fate in waters
    g d f r t n w t s … g d f r f t n w t r s

This is close, it has that extra ‘f’ in the second half and the rhyme is in the wrong place, but it is close and this is a very difficult harmony to replicate in English.


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