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25 September 2017 @ 03:11 pm
The Poem  
Here's the poem I have been working on, now that I have had a chance to present it to William and Isolde.
After the poem I have notes on the poetic structure and some analysis.

Yn Canmol William Ac Isolde
("In Praise Of William And Isolde")
A cywydd deuair hirion in cynghanedd groes

Midrealm people! Mead roy'lly
Flows in these halls. Fill as we
Praise battle arm, prize beauty.
William the Good - well you see
The Dragon Throne, though dear it
Cost in Will, Time. Cast on Wit,
Knit veiled tributes into view
Told of writ to laud virtue.
Singer of knights, song ever
Joyous to hear. Just to her:
Isolde inspires! As all dare
New fine feats, now fanfare,
Celebration! So labors she
Over chase of archery
Standard she set. Sought no door,
The fights rejoined though footsore.
Granters of rings! Grow new trust,
Aspire, add strides, spread stardust!
When same reign through, when somehow
Rune delivered - heir. And now,
Dandeli'n done dallying,
Tiger token of great king,
Rose down dais raised on high,
Will labors woo lullabye,
Sleep, true crowns. Seal poetry
Name more fame in memory.

-- Dafydd ap Hywel ap Madog Fychan, known as Dai Gerdwr



This is a praise poem as would typically have been written by a bard of the 14th/15th century in Wales. The specific examples of poems written by Iolo Goch and the poems of Gruffudd Llwyd written to Owain Glyndŵr serve as the prime inspiration for this poem.

Cywydd is Welsh alliterative poetry that consists of rhyming couplets wherein each line contains one of the defined forms of alliteration. Cywydd Deuair Hirion ("Poem of long couplets") is considered to be what is referenced when just the term cywydd is used and consists of rhyming couplets of seven syllables. In this form the rhymes must be between a stressed syllable on one line and an unstressed syllable on another line:

"Midrealm people! Mead roy'lly
Flows in these halls. Fill as we"

This rhyme scheme is fairly easy in Welsh as most multi-syllable words have their stress on the penultimate syllable and therefore can fit well into a couplet with a single-syllable word as the associated rhyme. It is not quite as easy in English...

Other forms of cywydd are Cywydd Deuair Fyrion ("Poem of short couplets") which consists of four syllables and does not require alliteration, and Cywydd Llosgyrnog ("Poem with tail rhymes") which is a complex form of 6 line stanzas of varying length with interlocking rhymes.

Cynghanedd ("harmony") refers to a number of schemes of alliteration. The most strict of these is cynghanedd groes ("cross harmony"), where the consonant sounds in the first half of the line must appear in the second half of the line in the same order and without interruption.

"Midrealm people! Mead roy'lly"

In its purest form, the alliteration is counted only from the beginning of the first stressed syllable. Examples seem to show that an ending consonant does not need to match because there is no stress following that syllable.

Other forms of cynghanedd include cynghanedd draws ("Oblique harmony"), where the alliteration may be interrupted, cynghanedd sain ("sound harmony"), where two words within the line rhyme and the second alliterates with (but does not rhyme with) the last word in the line, and cynghanedd lusg ("dragging harmony"), where the last syllable in the first half of the line rhymes with the next-to-last syllable of the line - which must be stressed.

(Sources: http://anitra.net/kalliope/welsh.html and http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=12138)


To be pure, this should have been written in Welsh. My Welsh is not at all up to anything beyond a "Goo Goo Gah Gah" poem, so that wasn't about to happen. Someday, perhaps.

Writing this in English meant making some decisions on the handling of "w" and "y" - in Welsh, these are always vowels while in English they can be considered a vowel in some cases and a consonant in others. I have tried to be consistent in usage such that if (for example) "y" is a consonant (as in "yes" or "you") in the first half of the line then it is used as such in the second half. This typically is the case when the y or w falls at the beginning of the word or syllable but not when it falls at the end.

English stress patterns on multi-syllable words can be wildly inconsistent and present problems when there is a primary stress and a secondary stress contained within the word. In almost all cases I have treated a secondary stress as unstressed. I justify this because in strict syllabic meter the secondary stress can be subsumed and spoke with small enough stress to fit the pattern. In the final couplet, I chose two multi-syllable words with a (primary)(unstress)(secondary) pattern. The image being too good to lose, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which secondary stress can (or should) be emphasized to continue the proper pattern for the cywydd (personally, I choose "memory").

Finally, though it seems to have worked out properly for the most part, I did not strictly adhere to the alliteration surrounding the primary stress in the first half of the line being the start of the pattern for the second half of the line. This violation is most obvious when I separated a two-consonant combination into separate consonants or combined two into one ("Flows in these halls. Fill as we" - technically, the stress comes after the "l" in the first half but before it in the second half). It also appears when alliterating between an article and a full word ("The Dragon Throne, though dear it" should probably not alliterate on the th of "The" but it is somewhat rescued by "though" also being unstressed).

The inspiration for this poem was to honor the reign of William and Isolde, which was not just the first reign I observed in the SCA from tournament to coronation to the end but also has been inspiring in so many other ways. My initial challenge was to complete the poem prior to Midrealm Fall Coronation, AS LII. I accomplished this goal. I had set a secondary goal of creating a scroll to present to Their (now) Excellencies, but I was unable to accomplish that due to calligraphy and illumination skills which are not (yet) up to par for such a meaningful task.

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