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Universal Elements of Poetry
Welsh meters - There are 24 traditional Welsh poetic forms as set down in the 14th century by Welsh teachers, Einion Offeiriad and Dafydd Ddu Athro. Some, like the cywydd deuair hirion, were very popular; others were extremely rare. The forms are generally divided into three classes: the englynion or englyns; the Cywydd; and the Awdl or odes. Of the englyn, there are five kinds; of the cywydd, four; and of the awdl, fifteen. Each particular kind of englyn, cywydd, and awdl has its name attached to the primary one.
Cywydd measures: Welsh odic verse form using cynghanedd (alliteration) in rhyming couplets or triplets (there were four variations of the cynghanedd there is one requirement; in all Welsh poems the same consonants must occur in the same order in relation to the main stress in each half of a line). It was the leading verse form from the 14th to the 17th century. From time to time it reappears and is still popular among modern Welsh poets. There are four types of cywydd forms:
Cywydd deuair hyrion: This long-lined couplet has been the most-used cywydd measure since the time of Dafydd ap Gwilym. It often has different kinds of cynghanedd (alliteration) in each line. The unit is a rhyming couplet of seven-syllables. The rhyme is final with an unaccented word rhyming with an accented. Either the accented or unaccented word can come first in the couplet. In this example Lament for Owain ab Urien:
Owain ab Urien's soul
May the Lord keep immortal.
Lordly to praise Rheged's lord,
Greatly burdened by greensward,
Laid low, this far-bruited king,
His lances wings of dawning.
To none other was he thrall,
No other was his equal,
Reaper of fores, ravener,
Son, father, and grandfather.
When Owain scythed down Fflamddwynn
It was no more than nodding.
Sleeping are the Anglemen,
Light in their sockets open,
And those who but shortly fled
Were bolder than they needed
Owain put them to the sack:
Sheep before the wolf-pack.
Grand in colored armament,
Well he horsed the suppliant:
For his soul's sake Owain shared
The treasure that he hoarded.
An example of cyngahanedd sain would be:
O bedwen | fonwen | fanwallt
O birch-tree white-trunked fair-haired...
In the cynghanedd sain the line divides into three. The final syllable of the first two sections rhymes fully. The first letter of the second and third sections alliterates. If we wanted to write this as an English example we would have "The birch doth search ceaselessly". The English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins used this regularly for example, his sonnet Felix Randal:
Flix Rndal the frrier, O is he dad then my dty all nded,
Who have watched his mould of man, bigboned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it, and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended
Sickness broke him. Impatient, he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and alltho' a heavenlier heart began some
Mnths arlier, since had our swet repreve and rnsom
Tndered to him. h well, God rst him ll road ver he offnded!
This seing the sck endars them t us, us to it endars.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;
How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!
Cywydd Llosgyrnog: A poem made up of eight syllable lines. Here is the form:
line 1 eight syllables, ends with first rhyme (a)
line 2 eight syllables, ends with (a)
line 3 seven syllables third syllable is (a), line ends with (b)
line 4 eight syllables, ends with new rhyme (c)
line 5 eight syllables, ends with (c)
line 6 seven syllables third syllable is (c), line ends with (b)
* * * * * * * A
* * * * * * * A
* * A * * * B
* * * * * * * C
* * * * * * * C
* * C * * * B
Cywyddan are also written in free verse. In this example written by Welsh poet Robin Clidro, who wrote comic meter or meur Clidro, drew on an historical event for its thematic material. In the poem Cywydd dros y gwiwerod a aeth i Lundain i ffilio ag i wneuthur affidafid ar y bil am dorri Coed Marchan yn ynyl Rhuthyn, Clidro assails the British for deforestation when they cut down the trees of Marchan Wood, near Rhuthyn in order to provide coal for the ironworks industry.
Cywydd dros y gwiwerod a aeth i Lundain i ffilio ag i wneuthur affidafid ar y bil am dorri Coed Marchan yn ynyl Rhuthyn.
Blin ac afrydd ywr gyfraith,
macn boen ir gwiwerod bach;
mynad ar lawndaith i Lundain
u bloedd au mamaeth ou blaen.
Gwych oedd hir wiwer goch hon,
dorllaes, yn medru darllen,
yn ymddiddan r cyngawr,
ac eto man fater mawr.
Pan roed y llyfr dan ei llaw
a choel oedd iw chywilyddiaw,
hi ddywed wrth y beili,
Sir Bribwm, un twym wyt ti!
Ar ei llw hi ddywed fal hyn,
anrheithio holl goed Rhuthyn
a dwyn ei thy ai sgubor
liw nos du, ai chnau ai str.
"maer gwiwerod yn gweiddi
am y coed rhag ofn y ci.
Nid oes fry o goed y fron
Ond lludw y derw llwydion.
Nod oes gepyll heb ei gipio,
na nyth brn byth in bro.
Maer tylluanod yn udo
am y coed, yn gyrru plant ou co.
Gwaer dylluan rhag annwyd,
oer ei lle am geubren llwyd!
Gwaer geifr am eu coed au cyll,
a pherchen hwch a pherchyll!
Gwae galon hwch folgoch hen
Dduw Sul am le i gael mesen!
Cadair y cathod coedion,
mi wn y tu llosgwyd hon.
Yn iach draenog; nac aerwy
na chafn moch ni cheir mwy.
Os rhostir gwydd foel, rhiad fydd
rhedyn Bwlch y Rhodwydd.
Crychias ni feirw crochan,
na breci mwy heb bricie mn.
O daw mawnen or mynydd
a y glaw, oer a drud fydd.
Annwyd fydd yn lladd y forwyn,
oer ei thraed a defni oi thrwyn.
Nid oes gaynac ysgyrren
na chae chwipio biach gul hen.
Gwir a ddywed Angharad,
oni cheir glo, yn iach in gwlad.
Here it is in translation:
A poem on behalf of the squirrels who went to London to file and make an affidavit on the bill for the cutting down of Marchan Wood, near Rhuthyn.
Odious and hard is the law
and painful to little squirrels.
They go all the way to London
with their cry and matron before them.
This red squirrel was splendid,
soft-bellied and able to read;
she conversed with the Council
and made a great matter of it.
When the Book was put under her hand
in the faith that this would shame her,
she spoke thus to the bailiff,
'Sir Bribem, you're a deep one!'
Then on her oath she said,
'All Rhuthyn's woods are ravaged;
my house and barn were taken
one dark night, and all my nuts.'
The squirrels are all calling
for the trees; they fear the dog.
Up there remains of the hill wood
only grey ash of oak trees;
there's not a stump unstolen
nor a crow's nest left in our land.
The owls are always hooting
for trees; they send the children mad.
The poor owl catches cold,
left cold without her hollow trunk.
Woe to the goats, without trees or hazels,
and to the sow-keeper and piglets!
Pity an old red-bellied sow
on Sunday, in her search for an acorn.
The chair of the wild cats,
I know where that was burnt.
Goodbye hedgehog! No cow-collar
nor pig-trough will come from here any more.
If a plucked goose is to be roasted,
it must be with bracken from Rhodwydd Gap.
No pot will come to bubbling,
no beer will boil without small twigs;
and if peat comes from the mountain
in the rain, it's cold and dear.
Cold will exhaust the housemaid,
with cold feet and a dripping nose.
There's no hollow trunk or branch,
nor a fence for the beating of an old thin snipe.
Yes, Angharad spoke the truth,
if we don't get coal it's goodbye to our land.'
word order - [this discussion from class notes with Professor Ney MacMinn, Northwestern University]
Agent-Action? Noun-Verb? The first rule learned in elementary school prose writing is now reversed in poem writing. Our finest poets write in several types of reverse orders:
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur’d torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheek,
Turn all her mother’s pain and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child.” Shakespeare King Lear Act 1, Scene 4
“Dear is the memory of our wedded lives
And dear the last embraces of our wives” Tennyson The Lotos Eaters
“Hateful is the dark blue sky,
Vaulted o’e the dark-blue sea.” Tennyson The Lotos Eaters
“Great is thy power, and great is thy fame,
Far kenn’d and noted is thy name. Burns Address to the Devil
“One blast upon his bugle-horn
Were worth a thousand men
And refluent throught the pass of fear
The battle’s tide was poured.
Vanish‘d the Saxon’s struggling spear,
Vanish’d the mountain sword.” Sir Walter Scott The Lade of the Lake, Canto Sixth
“Confusion heard his voice, and wilde uproar
Stood rul’d, stood vast infinitude confined; John Milton Paradise Lost, Canto III
“Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d to air. Tennyson Charge of the Light Brigade
“Stole a maiden from her place
Lightly to the warrior stepped
Took the face-cloth from his face
Yet she neither moved nor wept.
Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set his child upon her knee. Tennyson The Princess
“Comes a vapour from the margin,
Blackening over heath and holt.
Cramming all the blast before it
In its breast a thunder-bolt.” Tennyson Locksley Hall
“Slides the bird o’er lustrous woodland,
Swings the trailer from the crag,
Droops the heavy-blossom’d bower,
Hangs the heavy-fruited tree. Tennyson Locksley Hall
“Wide flush the fields, the softening air is balm,
Echo the mountains round
And every sense, and every heart is joy.” James Thomson A Hymn
“Came a troop with broadswords swinging,
Bits and bridles sharply ringing.” Whittier Barclay of Uri
Other Inversions: Verb/Object
“Me, let the tender office long engage
To rock the cradle of reposing age;
With lenient arts extend a mother’s breath,
Make languor smile, and smooth the bed of death;
Explore the thought, explain the asking eye,
And keep awhile one parent from the sky.” Alexander Pope Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot:Prologue to the Satires
“Dissolvents of the old European systems of dominant ideas and facts we must all be, all of us that have any power of working: what we have to study is that we may not be acrid dissolvents of it.” Matthew Arnold. Culture and Anarchy
“The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal – every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open – this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude.” Washington Irving The Sketch Book
“The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honourable gentleman has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny.” William Pitt the Elder in reply to Horace Walpole in the House of Commons in 1741.
“With antic Sport, and blue-eyed Pleasures,
Frisking light in frolic measures;
Now pursuing, now retreating
Now in circling troops they meet
To brisk notes in cadence beating
Glance their many-twinkling feet.” Thomas Gray Progress of Poesy
“Dauntless on his native sands
The dragon-son of Mona stands;
In glittering arms and glory drest,
High he rears his ruby crest.
There the thundering strokes begin,
There the press, and there the din…
Then shook the hills, with thunder tiven,
Then rushed the steeds to battle driven;
And louder than the bolts of heaven
Far flashed the red artillery…
Of Nelson and the North
Sing the tlorious day’s renown,
When to battle fierce went forth
All the might of Denmark’s crown. Thomas Gray The Triumph of Owen
Much have I travelled in the realms of gold
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bands in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer rules as his demesne:
Yet never did I breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken:
Or like stout Cortez when, with eagle eyes,
He stares at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.” Keats Sonnet on Chapman’s Homer
Just one more example:
“But on the cold side looking toward the north,
A pillaried council-house may you behold,
Within whose porch are images of gold…
Their arms were axe and spear, and shield and bow,
But nought of iron did they seem to know;…
With cloths of cotton were bodies clad,
But other raiment for delight they had. Willliam Morris Earthly Paradise
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