The deibhidhe is an Irish form. In English it is more often spelt deibide, but you still have to pronounce it jayvee. (The Irish language uses a lot of unlikely-looking clusters of consonants, and most of them seem to be either pronounced as “v” or not pronounced at all. Exercise: pronounce the name of the poet Medbh McGuckian.)
Here’s a deibhidhe about the time I spent working in the oil industry:
Of a subject dire I sing:
I could never understand –
A queer and quaggy quicksand!
I was sent away to learn
About it in climes northern,
But while at Herriot-Watt
My zeal did not run riot.
All the years I worked in oil,
My conscience was in turmoil.
I floundered through the fog
Like a bogged-down wan warthog.
My colleagues would make a fuss.
Those strata – were they porous?
It bothered me not a whit
How the drill bit grey granite.
The mysteries of the rock
Made me feel like a pillock.
Underground movements of gas
Alas, my mind can’t compass.
I don’t work there any more,
Redundancy my saviour.
Not a tragedy at all –
A small but welcome windfall!
There was a TV advert for an airline some years ago which featured the following exchange between two passengers on a flight to Aberdeen. Large outgoing American: “D’you work in oil?” Weedy-looking bespectacled Brit: “No, watercolour.” Hence the title. Herriot-Watt University is situated near Edinburgh and offers week-long courses on such arcane subjects as Reservoir Engineering, cleverly sugaring the pill by making them coincide with the Edinburgh Festival.
As for the form, each stanza has 4 lines of 7 syllables each, rhyming aabb, and both of these rhymes are deibide rhymes i.e. in the first line of each rhyming pair, the rhyming syllable is stressed, and in the second it is unstressed.
The form also demands an aicill rhyme between lines 3 and 4 i.e. the word at the end of line 3 rhymes with a word somewhere in the middle of line 4 (as whit/bit, gas/alas above).
Finally, there must be alliteration between the last word of each stanza and the preceding stressed word (as quaggy quicksand, welcome windfall above).
This amounts to a lot of constraints for the fourth line to satisfy in the space of only 7 syllables. I found this form a tough one, except when writing the last stanza. Perhaps I was getting into the swing of it by then.
Thanks to Bob Newman for his wonderful Volecentral resource site.
My example poem
Night Nymph (Deibhidhe)
I was mesmerized, entranced
when she stood in the entrance.
Just one glance at her’d confer
instantly a pure pleasure
The nymph caused my heart to sing
and set my nerves to dancing
I viewed her in near undress
and dreamed she’d be my mistress.
But it was not meant to be,
this maiden oh so pretty.
for she was gone with the sun
a nighttime visit vision.
© Lawrencealot – April 10, 2014
art by Herbert James Draper [d. 1920]