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.
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; not all of these, however, are included in the Traditional Welsh poetic metres.
Also known as the short-ended englyn. It consists of a stanza of three lines. The first line has ten syllables (in two groups of five), the second has five to six; and the third has seven. The seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the first line introduces the rhyme and this is repeated on the last syllable of the other two lines. The fourth syllable of the second line may echo the final syllable of the first through either rhyme or consonance.
Oer gwly pysgawd yng nghysgawd iäen;
Cul hydd, cawn barfawd;
Byr diwedydd, gwŷdd gwyrawd.:17
Englyn unodl union
The straight one-rhymed englyn, identical to englyn penfyr except that it addes a fourth, rhyming, seven-syllable line at the end. Thus it consists of four lines of ten, six, seven and seven syllables. The seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the first line introduces the rhyme and this is repeated on the last syllable of the other three lines. The part of the first line after the rhyme alliterates with the first part of the second line.
This is an englyn unodl union by Alan Llwyd:
Ym Mhorth oer y Merthyron – y merthyr
Mwya'i werth o ddigon
A hir-fawrha y fro hon
Wr dewr o Aberdaron
The soldier's englyn. This consists of three seven-syllable lines. All three lines rhyme.
Otid eiry, gwyn y cnes;
Nid â cedwyr i'w neges;
Oer llynnau, eu lliw heb des.:17
The even englyn, more common in the Middle Ages than later. This is identical to englyn milwr except that it has four lines. One example (showing the half-rhyme of -edd with -er) is:
Cyntefin ceinaf amser,
Dydar adar, glas calledd,
Ereidr yn rhych, ych yng ngwedd,
Gwyrdd môr, brithotor tiredd.:16
Englyn byr crwca
The short crooked englyn. This is like englyn penfyr, but orders the lines differently: seven syllables in the first, ten syllables (in two groups of five) in the second, and five to six syllables in the third. In the following example, the second line does not participate in the rhyme:
Ton tra thon toid tu tir;
Goruchel gwaeddau rhag bron bannau bre;
Braidd allan orsefir.:17
Englyn unodl crwca
The crooked one-rhyme englyn. This englyn is like englyn byr crwca, except that it adds an extra seven-syllable line at the beginning. This is made up of four lines of seven, seven, ten and six syllables. The last syllables of the first, second and last lines and the seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the third line all rhyme.
The seeking englyn. This form has four lines of seven syllables each. The final syllables of the first, second, and last line rhyme. The final syllable of the third line rhymes with the second, third or fourth syllable of the last line:
Caradawg fab Cedifor,
Gwalch byddin gwerin goror,
Hebawg teulu cu ceinmyn,
Anawdd gennyn dy hepgor.:30
Englyn proest dalgron
In this englyn, there are four seven-syllable lines that half-rhyme with each other (half-rhyme means that the final consonants agree).
Adeiliwyd bedd, gwedd gwiwder,
F'enaid, i'th gylch o fynor:
Adeiliawdd cof dy alar
I'm calon ddilon ddolur.:50
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 lines of seven syllables. The first and third lines 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 lines of seven syllables. All four lines half-rhyme, and there is additional cynghanedd.
This is a hybrid between an englyn and a toddaid. The first two lines are as for an englyn, and there follow two more lines of ten syllables each.
After the first two lines there is just one more line of three syllables or fewer, which follows the rhyme of the first two lines.
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.
Here are two englynion by the twelfth-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
The poet Robert Graves wrote an englyn in English, included in the Juvinalia (1910 - 1914) of his Complete Poems
A Pot of White Heather
Thou, a poor woman's fairing, white heather,
Witherest from the ending
Of summer's bliss to the sting
Of winter's grey beginning.
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]
Â diolch o 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 come
With thanks anew,
For from your hand comes every day
Our sustenance and our joy.
Breton poet Padrig an habask also writes Breton englynion: in 2020 he has published a collection of them called Lampreiz. (http://brezhoneg.org/en/node/11057)
- 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.
- The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse, ed. by Thomas Parry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962).
- Davies, "Haiku and Englyn", Toronto Daily Star, 4 April 1959, in The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies, 1990.
- lowrihafcooke (2013-02-06). "Adolygiad Ffilm: The Last Days of Dolwyn (PG)". Lowri Haf Cooke (in Welsh). Retrieved 2019-06-18.
- Rhys, John (1905), "The Origin of the Welsh Englyn and Kindred Metres", in Evans, E. Vincent (ed.), Y Cymmrodor, XVIII, Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, pp. 1–185
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