Poetry Guide: Cynghanedd
What is Cynghanedd?
Cynghanedd (literally "harmony"), in Welsh language poetry, is the basic concept of sound-arrangement within one line, using stress, alliteration and rhyme. The various forms of cynghanedd show up the definitions of all formal Welsh verse forms, such as the awdl. Cynghanedd has been used from very early times and continues in common use today. Cynghanedd is a traditional Welsh poetic form that has been in existence for centuries. It is a complex system of sound patterns that is used to create beautiful, harmonious verses in Welsh poetry. In Welsh, Cynghanedd means "harmony," and this form of poetry is all about achieving harmony between words and sounds.
The History of Cynghanedd
Cynghanedd has been a part of Welsh literature for centuries, with the earliest known examples dating back to the 14th century. It was a popular form of poetry during the Renaissance period, and many of the greatest Welsh poets of the time, such as Dafydd ap Gwilym, used Cynghanedd in their works.
Over time, Cynghanedd evolved into a more complex system of sound patterns, with strict rules and structures that had to be followed. Despite this complexity, it remained a popular form of poetry in Wales, and many poets continued to use it in their works.
Forms of cynghanedd
The examples below are from the poem Cywydd y Cedor, by the fourteenth-century bard Gwerful Mechain. The caesuras are marked with slashes ("/") and rhyming parts are marked in bold. Note that Dd, Ll and Ch are counted as single consonants in the Welsh alphabet.
Cynghanedd groes ("cross-harmony")
All consonants which appear in the line before the caesura must be repeated after it, in the same order. For example:
clawdd i ddal / cal ddwy ddwylaw CL Dd Dd L / C L Dd Dd L
Cynghanedd draws (also "cross-harmony")
Like cynghanedd groes, except only some of the consonants are repeated. For example:
dabl y gerdd / a'i dwbl o goch D BL G RDd D BL G Ch
Cynghanedd sain ("sound-harmony")
The line has two caesuras, and thus has three parts. The first and second parts rhyme; the consonants of the second part are repeated in the third part. For example:
pant yw hwy / na llwy / na llaw / N Ll / N Ll
Cynghanedd lusg ("drag-harmony")
The first accented syllable in the line rhymes with the second-to-last syllable of the line. For example:
duw er ei radd / a'i addef,,
The Structure of Cynghanedd
Cynghanedd is based on a series of strict sound patterns that are used to create a harmonious verse. There are several types of Cynghanedd, each with its own rules and structures, but they all follow a similar pattern.
The most basic type of Cynghanedd is called Cynghanedd Sain, which means "sound harmony." In this form, the last stressed syllable of the first word in the line must rhyme with the last stressed syllable of the second word in the line. For example, in the line "yn fy nghartref mae'n dawel" (in my home it is quiet), the stressed syllable "tre" in "cartref" rhymes with the stressed syllable "wel" in "dawel."
Another type of Cynghanedd is called Cynghanedd Lusg, which means "dragging harmony." In this form, the last two or three syllables of the first word in the line must rhyme with the last two or three syllables of the second word in the line. For example, in the line "a fflamau'r goleuadau'n gwiwo," (and the flames of the lights flicker), the last three syllables of "fflamau'r" (mau'r) rhyme with the last three syllables of "goleuadau'n" (adau'n).
The Impact of Cynghanedd on Literature
Cynghanedd has had a significant impact on Welsh literature and culture. It has been an essential part of Welsh poetry for centuries, and many of the greatest Welsh poets have used it in their works. Cynghanedd has also influenced the way that the Welsh language is spoken and written, as many people have learned the rules and structures of Cynghanedd as part of their education.
Cynghanedd has also had an impact on the wider literary world. Many poets and writers from outside Wales have been inspired by Cynghanedd and have used its principles in their own works. For example, the American poet Dylan Thomas was inspired by Welsh poetry and used Cynghanedd in some of his works.
Using Cynghanedd in Modern Poetry
Although Cynghanedd is a traditional form of poetry, it continues to inspire modern poets and writers. Many contemporary Welsh poets use Cynghanedd in their works, and there are also poets from outside Wales who have been influenced by this form of poetry.
One example of a modern poet who has used Cynghanedd is the Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. In her poem "Cynghanedd," she uses the principles of Cynghanedd to create a beautiful, harmonious verse that is both traditional and modern.
Learning to Write Cynghanedd
Learning to write Cynghanedd can be a challenging and rewarding experience. It requires a deep understanding of Welsh phonology and a familiarity with the rules and structures of this form of poetry. However, once you have mastered the basics of Cynghanedd, it can be a powerful tool for creating beautiful, harmonious verse.
There are many resources available for those who want to learn how to write Cynghanedd. These include books, courses, and workshops that are designed to teach the rules and structures of this form of poetry.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
- Hopwood, Mererid (2004), Singing in chains: listening to Welsh verse. Llandysul : Gomer. ISBN 1843234025.
- For an example of a poem in English using cynghanedd, see the poem by Katherine Bryant at the end of this page.
- A more thorough introduction to Welsh poetic forms