Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The last say on englynion

Englynion have enjoyed a renaissance during the last twenty years, largely due to Cymdeithas Cerdd Dafod, the society for poets and others interested in this aspect of Welsh culture and the effort from Alan Llwyd, poet, editor and secretary since its beginning in 1976. During July I have been drafting and crafting Englynion, following other contemporary poets have written verse according to the age-old rules, but I can see it is a form best left to others. I have learnt from the experience and, in some strange way, I have enjoyed my dalliance with the form

T. Arfon Williams developed an interest in Welsh poetic forms in the seventies and gained a reputation in the pages of Barddas, a monthly magazine, as a master of the Englyn, popular among Welsh poets since about the ninth century. He mastered the rules of Welsh prosody by reading broadly on the subject and with the help of other poets writing englynion in Welsh as well as in English to illustrate what the form requires.
The following example of his work in English appeared in The New Companion in the Literature of Wales (1998):

            A bee in your flower bed - I alight
            on the lips full-parted
            of your fox-glove, beloved,
            and am freely, fully fed.

There have been many other attempts to write englynion in English, sometimes by poets as eminent as W.H. Auden and Robert Graves, but they are usually only attempts to capture the structure, rather than true imitations. With a few exceptions, Welsh poetry remains a mystery to most English readers.

My best effort for the month were the 7th, 9th and 11th.

Rising tall above the weed
this child born of scattered seed
turns his face towards the sun
life hard won from thoughtless deed.

Slipped away before she woke
ne'er a parting word he spoke
night of lust built on a lie
do or die, escape the yoke.

Deep beneath this scented grass- in repose
those folks of special class
bound by years that duly pass
in dark solitude, alas.

For those of you wishing to try it:

There are at least six kinds of englyn, and as many variations of cynghanedd (the basic concept of sound-arrangement within one line) within the lines, but the rules can be summarised as follows:

  • The first two lines have ten and six syllables.
  •  The next two have seven each.
  • There is usually a dash after the seventh syllable of the first line and that syllable announces the rhyme at the end of the other three.
  •  All four lines have assonance and are accented according to fixed rules.

The Englyn can carry a powerful emotional charge and its very brevity and intricacy give it a unique intensity. 

~ Merlene Fawdry

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For some reason I'm yet to fathom I'm unable to reply to comments left by others so thank you for dropping by and taking the time to read and comment. Merlene