Welsh Bardic Verse Lesson 5

Lesson 5

Additional Englynion

I would like to continue our study of englynion by examining two more types of poems.

(IV) Englyn Unodl Crwca (or crooked one rhyme englyn) simply reverses an englyn unodl union.  It is rarely used as a stand-alone verse.  More often it is combined with a long string of couplets to break the rhythm.  Constructing the crooked englyn is easy:  Remember the parlor game where one poet begins with a shaft of an englyn unodl union and another poet provides the fletching or feathers?  For the crooked englyn, simply start with the feathers and then add in the shaft.  The resulting verse will still consist of thirty syllables, two seven syllable lines, one ten syllable line and one six syllable line.  All lines rhyme, but due to enjambment, line three (the ten-syllable line) carries the rhyme one, two or three syllables before the end of the line.  Don’t forget the cynghanedd connecting the third line with the fourth line. 

     7 syllables _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (rhyme A)

     7 syllables _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (rhyme A)

10 syllables _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (rhyme A) _ _ _(cynghanedd)

    6 syllables (cynghanedd)_ _ _ _ _ _ (rhyme A)

Here is an example of mine:

  Wild Wales

     Most often our mountain mist,

     Is indexed on the long list

Of places where ghosts exist – oh wild Wales!

       Welcome old fabulist.


(V) Englyn Cyrch, or “attacking englyn,” is a victim of its own popularity.  This four-line englyn has been used by a multitude of untrained poets for folksongs and hymns.  Despite the beauty of some of these lyrics, stricter craftsmen may feel as if it is beneath their dignity.  How sad.  At any rate, each of the four lines has seven syllables.  Lines one, two and four share an end rhyme.  Line three, on the other hand, rhymes with the middle of line four.

7 syllables _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (rhyme A)

7 syllables _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (rhyme A)

7 syllables _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (rhyme B)

7 syllables _ _ _ (rhyme B)_ _ _ _ (rhyme A)

Here is my example:

     Treasure Chest

Long live Cymraeg, language old;

Strongest treasure chest to hold

The very essence of Wales;

Ancient tales of truth retold.


The englyn cyrch illustrates a risk inherent to the bardic tradition … snobbery.  In my opinion, untrained poets and folksingers using the form should never have driven the master bards to abandon the englyn cyrch.  It produces a graceful and elegant stanza, capable of great expression.  I hope you will join me in never looking down upon other poets for not using techniques we have studied.  Poetry, after all, belongs to us all.