Deibhidhe

The deibhidhe is an Irish form. In English it is more often spelt deibide, but you still have to pronounce it jayvee. (The Irish language uses a lot of unlikely-looking clusters of consonants, and most of them seem to be either pronounced as "v" or not pronounced at all. Exercise: pronounce the name of the poet Medbh McGuckian.) 

Here's a deibhidhe about the time I spent working in the oil industry: 

No, Watercolour...
Of a subject dire I sing:
Reservoir Engineering
I could never understand -
A queer and quaggy quicksand!

I was sent away to learn
About it in climes northern,
But while at Herriot-Watt
My zeal did not run riot.

All the years I worked in oil,
My conscience was in turmoil.
I floundered through the fog
Like a bogged-down wan warthog.

My colleagues would make a fuss.
Those strata - were they porous?
It bothered me not a whit
How the drill bit grey granite.

The mysteries of the rock
Made me feel like a pillock.
Underground movements of gas
Alas, my mind canít compass.

I donít work there any more,
Redundancy my saviour.
Not a tragedy at all -
A small but welcome windfall!

There was a TV advert for an airline some years ago which featured the following exchange between two passengers on a flight to Aberdeen. Large outgoing American: "D'you work in oil?" Weedy-looking bespectacled Brit: "No, watercolour." Hence the title. Herriot-Watt University is situated near Edinburgh and offers week-long courses on such arcane subjects as Reservoir Engineering, cleverly sugaring the pill by making them coincide with the Edinburgh Festival. 

As for the form, each stanza has 4 lines of 7 syllables each, rhyming aabb, and both of these rhymes are deibide rhymes i.e. in the first line of each rhyming pair, the rhyming syllable is stressed, and in the second it is unstressed.

The form also demands an aicill rhyme between lines 3 and 4 i.e. the word at the end of line 3 rhymes with a word somewhere in the middle of line 4 (as whit/bit, gas/alas above). 

Finally, there must be alliteration between the last word of each stanza and the preceding stressed word (as quaggy quicksand, welcome windfall above).

This amounts to a lot of constraints for the fourth line to satisfy in the space of only 7 syllables. I found this form a tough one, except when writing the last stanza. Perhaps I was getting into the swing of it by then.

Deibide Baise Fri Toin

A similar name, but not much in common with the common-or-garden deibide, apart from being Irish. I don't know how to pronounce this one, or the literal meaning of its name, but here's what the verse form looks like:

Against Vegetation
Move! Without
doubt it helps to get about.
Except for triffids, a plant
canít.

Poor daisies!
In peril as cow grazes,
prospects of survival not
hot.

Such fodder
can't flee even a plodder;
inferior to the least
beast.

No better,
the shiftless non-go-getter,
potato sat on a couch.
Ouch!

The syllable count is 3, 7, 7, 1 and it rhymes aabb. It is essential to the form that the a rhymes have two syllables, and the b rhymes have one syllable. There are a fair number of Irish forms - some of them with longer and more unpronounceable names - and most of them stipulate the type of rhyme as precisely as this.

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© Bob Newman 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 20/04/2008