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Poetry Guide: Englyn

Englyn (plural englynion) is a traditional Welsh short poem form. It uses quantitative metres, involving the counting of syllables, and rigid patterns of rhyme and half rhyme.

The Eight Types

There are eight types of englynion. Details of their structures are given below.

Englyn penfyr

Also known as the short-ended englyn. It consists of a verse of three lines. The first line has ten syllables and the other two have seven each. The seventh, eighth or ninth syllables 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 echoes the final syllable of the first through either rhyme or consonance.

Englyn milwr

The soldier's englyn. This consists of three seven-syllable lines. All three lines rhyme.

Englyn unodl union

The straight one-rhymed englyn. This 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 last syllable of the first line is rhymed with a syllable early in the second.

Englyn unodl crwc

The crooked one-rhyme englyn. This englyn is made up of four lines of seven, seven, ten and six syllables. The last syllable of the first, second and last lines rhyme and seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the third line all rhyme.

Englyn cyrch

This version has four lines of seven syllables each. The final syllables of the first second and last line rhyme. The last syllable of the third line rhymes with the second, third or fourth syllable of the last line.

Englyn proest dalgron

In this englyn, there are four seven-syllable lines that half rhyme with each other.

Englyn lleddfbroest

This is identical to the englyn proest dalgron except that the half rhymes must use the ae, oe, wy, and ei diphthongs.

Englyn proest gadwynog

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.

Other forms

The novelist Robertson Davies once said that englyns 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, englyns 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.

Source: Davies, "Haiku and Englyn", _Toronto Daily Star_, 4 April 1959, in _The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies_, 1990.


Here are two englynion by the 12th century Welsh poet Cyndelw Brydydd Mawr:

Balch ei fugunawr ban nafawr ei lef
pan ganer cyrn cydawr;
corn Llyelyn llyw lluydfawr
bon chang blaen hang bloed fawr.
Corn wedi llad corn llawen
corn llugynor Llywlyn
corn gwyd gwr hydr ai can
corn meinell yn ol gellgwn

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.