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Tinker

Welsh Verse

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Tinker

Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Features of the Welsh Meters
Welsh Codified Divisions

Welsh Verse a Brief History

As far back as Welsh history can record, poetry has been an integral part of the culture. The ancient Welsh poets held a sacred position in the courts and there is a murky line between priest, magician, and poet. The word "bard" comes from the Welsh "bardd", (poet) dating back to 100 BC. In ancient times the poets were supported by their kings, their lords, and their communities. Through their poetry, they praised and advised their lords, in politics, love, nature, and war.

Much of the early verse survived through oral tradition until it could be collected and recorded in the 12th century. In some instances, only the name of the poet survived which demonstrates how important the poets themselves were. The 6th-century Welsh poet Myrddin is thought by some to be Merlin of the Arthur legend. His collected poems, including the earliest reference in literature to the legendary King Arthur, are recorded in the 12th century, Black Book of Carmarthen.

In 6th century BC, a penkerdd (master or chief bard) won his position and was expected to train apprentices in a school of poetic arts. "Ry dysgas disgywen veirtyon" Cynddelw, ("I have taught splendid poets."). Welsh bards formed their own society and held competitions. Gatherings and competitions are still held in Wales today Eisteddfod, the largest and most important of which includes the selection every 3 years of an honorary "chief bard".

Before the 14th century, there were three grades of poets, the chief poets, the house poets and minstrel-jongleurs (probably not free men). Every noble house had a poet or bardd teulu, who were often of the nobility itself. In 1562, English law was imposed upon Wales; the transition influenced not just political life but all aspects of Welsh life, including the poets. It was then that the English King Edward I, understanding the power of the Welsh poets, abolished the official position of the chief poet in an attempt to dilute their influence. From that decree the distinction between the poets became blurred and poets of all stations were no longer supported by just one patron but had to move around seeking support. By the 16th century the gentleman poet emerged, here is the first evidence of occasional poems and satire in Welsh poetry. In whatever status, the Welsh poet remains respected even into modern times. Almost every Welsh community, no matter how small, boasts of several poets. They are recognized and honored, no matter if he or she is a professional writer or a farmer who writes verse.

One of my favorite contemporary Welsh poets shares his poetry right here at PMO under the name "badger". Here is a small sample of his work.

Parc Bryn Bach by Phil Woods

Sleep, and sleep long, and do not wait for me,
unbolt the door to dream and take a breath
beyond our aching bones that weighted this day.

Sleep, and sleep long, and do not wake for me,
tangle in sheets beneath the willow leaves
beyond these bracken thorns that bled this day.

Sleep, and sleep long, and do not lie with me
within the shallow pool, pillow those stars
beyond that broken moon that dreamt my day.

From this history, The 24 Official Welsh Meters were born. These were codified in the 14th century by Einion Offeiriad and edited by Dafydd Ddu Athro. The meters are divided into 3 divisions, the Englynion (short poems of praise or satire), the Cywydds (most popular of the forms) and the Awlds (rhymed speech). The Welsh were very proud of these complicated and rigid patterns. "As gytant yn dysc yn digyblon" Cynddelw, ("And our disciples know our teaching.").

The Official Welsh Meters are among the strictest patterns in the known world of literature. The rich content of the poetry is matched only by its meticulous execution of the craft.

 


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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