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Séadna & Séadna Mor & Séadna mheadhanach

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Irish Verse

Séadna (shay'-na) is Gaelic for passage.The Séadnas are dan direach or direct meter requiring alliteration in each line.  The Séadna alternate syllable count from line to line. They are written with cywddydd (harmony of sound) and dunadh (ending the poem with the same word, phrase or line with which the poem began). Séadna (named for its main character.) is also an old Irish folktale by Peadar Ó Laoghaire (1839-1920), published in 1904 which is a favorite for beginning readers of Gaelic and is not written in verse.

  • The elements of the Séadna are:
    1. written in any number of quatrains.
    2. syllabic 8-7-8-7.
    3. written with L1 and L3, 2 syllable end words; L2 and L4, 1 syllable end words.
    4. rhymed. L2 and L4 end rhyme, L3 rhymes with the stressed word preceding the final word of L4. There are two aicill-rhymes in the second couplet.
    5. composed with alliteration in each line, the final word of L4 alliterating with the preceding stressed word. The final syllable of L1 alliterates with the first stressed word of L2.

      x x x x x x (x a)
      x a x x x x b
      x x x b x x (x c)
      x b x c x x b

      With apologies to Sunset Magazine by Barbara Hartman

      Pool parties in backyard retreats,
      trellised vineyards veined with brooks.
      Arizona desert designs
      cool kitchens for combined cooks.

      Chinese chicken salad curry
      — rad recipes make me drool —
      Tiki Mai Tais and braised pheasant,
      seared salmon by pleasant pool.

  • Séadna mheadhanach is just a bit more complicated thant the Seadna. The elements of the  Séadna mheadhanach are:
    1. the same as the Séadna.
    2. except the end words of 1st and 3rd lines of the quatrain are 3 syllable words and the end words of the 2nd and 4th lines are 2 syllable words.

      x x x x x (x x a)
      x a x x x (x b)
      x x x b x (x x c)
      x b x c x (x b)

      Syllabic Silliness by Judi Van Gorder

      When writing verse be attendant,
      confidant in the stillness
      with syllable count dependant,
      drill and chant shunning shrillness.

  • Séadna Mòr (shay'-na mor) switches the 2 and 3 syllable end word placement from the Séadna mheadhanach. The elements of the  Séadna Mòr  stanza are:
    1. the same as Séadna.
    2. except L2 and L4 end in three-syllable words instead of monosyllable words.

      x x x x x x (x a)
      x a x x (x x b)
      x x x b x x (x c)
      x b x c (x x b)

      And The Winners are . . . by Barbara Hartman

      Cliff-swallows careen in between
      twin pillars of portico.
      Flights ferry mud balls for cement
      — birds' descent blights bungalow.

      Gourd-shaped nests sprout out from stucco,
      constant chatter — tremolo.
      Smears and splatters on walls defy
      hose. "Please don't," cry cliff-swallows.

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