Welsh Bardic Verse Lesson 6

Lesson 6

Half Rhyme and Englynion Proest


In order to understand the final three englynion forms, we must address half rhyming.  In this practice the final consonant in the last syllable of a line is repeated at the end of subsequent lines, but the vowels are not.  “Cap, cup, cape, coop” may serve as examples.  It is not necessary to aliterate with the first sound, though many bards do.  It is fine to half rhyme “book, cake, deck, and flick”.


In the strictest environments, only long vowels can match with long vowels.  Only short vowels can match with short vowels.  Following this rule “spade” matches “speed” but not “spud”.  Likewise, “nut” matches “knot” never “night”.  In more relaxed forms (i.e. folksongs and hymns) just the sound of the final consonants need match, nothing else.  This gives rise to half rhymes between “trim, lamb, dream,” and more.


Let’s practice proest, or strict half rhyme by using the same technique we tried with cynghanedd. Play our word game with place names.  Just as when you were practicing cynghanedd, don’t be afraid to write nonsense.  These are not poems.  You are practicing an exercise in sound patterns.  Let it be mouth music!   Here are some single syllable city names: Rome, Seoul, Fez, Bonn, Nice.  I’ll take Fez… “Drink fizz, not fuzz in Fez”.  It may generate nonsense, but I find these mental exercises endlessly entertaining.  Spend more than a day doing multiple examples in your head.  You will soon master the technique.


Informally you may hear this type of half-rhyme referred to as “Irish rhyme.”  Some find the tern derogatory.  Others feel as if it honors a Celtic kinship.  Much has been said on both sides of the issue, so be warned, it may be a name of contention.  “Half rhyme” is safer.  Better yet, keep it Welsh with “proest”.


(VI) Englyn Proest Dalgron, translates as “Round half-rhyme” englyn.  This is nothing more than four lines in a row using half rhyme.  Seven syllable long lines are needed.  All must end with strict half rhyme. Build your verse using pure long vowels for an englyn proest dalgron.


Here is how I start:  Build a list of word candidates.  Let’s pick “say, see, sigh, so,” and “sue”.  End four seven syllable long lines with them:


Some of the things that I see,

And some of the things I say

Would make a sweet angel sigh,

Or maybe a demon sue.


 (VII) Englyn Lleddfbroeat, or “minor key half rhyming” englyn” is the next form to look at.  It is just like the verse above, four seven syllable lines, but here, the half rhymes must use diphthongs.  Being as English has fewer true diphthongs than Welsh, this verse is rarely used in English.  Nonetheless, it must be mastered to complete the curriculum.


English diphthongs include oi, as in “soil”; ea, as in “teal”; ow as in “owl”; oo (or ou), as in “cool”; ai, as in “pail”.  I’ll build my verse with “soil, teal, cool, owl”.


Floating above the black soil

As dawn colors the sky teal

Is a sight completely cool:

A silent and searching owl.


(VIII) Englyn Proest Gadwynog is called the englyn “with a chain of half rhymes”.    This final englynion form is still based on four lines, each seven syllables long.  The pattern is simple, but there is an added twist or complexity which gives a distinctive “Celtic snap”.  Line one half rhymes with line two, full rhymes with line three and then half rhymes with line four.  Here is an example:


The joy of Celtic half rhyme,

Preserved in an ancient tome,

Requires some practice time

Before you take the skill home.