Englyn

The englyn is a Welsh verse form, and a difficult one. On the web, there are some definitions of the englyn that make it seem simple, but they are wrong. As well as syllable counts and rhyme, there is the important matter of cynghanedd, a concept peculiar to Celtic poetry. My first englyn (I have only written two, and have no plans to do any more) took me almost a whole afternoon to write, despite the form only having four lines. It turned out like this:

In flight, the butterfly knows utter bliss.
Sun today, soon to die,
Full of joy, life on the fly
Scales the void, the scombroid sky.

The sixth syllable of the first line rhymes with the other three lines. The syllable counts are 10, 6, 7, 7. And then there's the cynghanedd...

Cynghanedd is an attribute of a line of poetry, and there are several kinds of it. Each is a tightly-specified structural requirement involving rhyme or alliteration, or both. There are four kinds relevant to the englyn. Each line of the englyn must exhibit some kind of cynghanedd. Some kinds can be used in particular positions within the englyn, and not others. 

My example uses all four kinds of cynghanedd, but this is not essential. The first line exhibits cynghanedd lusg, the second cynghanedd groes (which is hard to do in English), the third cynghanedd draws, and the fourth cynghanedd sain. I believe I have written a perfectly-formed englyn, but it is hard to be certain, since the requirements are so complicated. I wrote it using a description of the englyn by Dan Pugh in the magazine Poetry Nottingham International (Vol 55 No 1, Spring 2001). My butterfly englyn appeared in Vol 55 No 2 and no-one complained about it, so perhaps it really is OK. 

For more information

Please see my links page for a site devoted to Welsh poetry. Here you can learn in detail about all the forms of cynghanedd, and all the 24 standard Welsh verse forms - there are 8 types of englyn, 4 types of cywydd, and 12 types of awdl (or ode). The englyn above appears to be an englyn unodl union

Back to Verse Forms home page. 

Bob Newman 2004. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 02/12/2004