An awdl is a Welsh ode. Awdlau (that’s the plural) come in twelve different varieties, and it will take me a while to get through them all (if I ever do). All the poems on this page will be awdlau.
There are 24 Welsh standard verse forms altogether. The other twelve are made up of eight kinds of englyn and four kinds of cywydd.
One important reservation: I believe all Welsh-language awdlau are required to exhibit some kind of cynghanedd in every line. In the descriptions below, this will not be mentioned (and in the examples, I will not attempt it). It is just too difficult and complicated for us non-Celts. If you really want to get to grips with this, I recommend the book Singing in Chains (see books page).
As Confucius once remarked, the page of a dozen awdlau begins with a single form:
Hir a Thoddaid
According to Singing in Chains, the Hir a Thoddaid is the most common form of awdl nowadays. Here’s a silly example:
I take back what I said about your knees –
They hardly knock at all. Forgive me, please.
My meaning and my words are chalk and cheese.
I love to cuddle you. You’re not obese.
I have caught a rare disease of the heart
When I see you I start to want to sneeze.
I didn’t mean to speak ill of your chin.
In pointing out it emphasised how thin
Your body was, I thought I’d make you grin.
Is paying you such compliments a sin?
I see I’ll have to discipline my tongue –
The songs I would have sung must stay within.
I’m sure that I did not suggest your arms’
Uneven lengths failed to augment your charms.
Believe me, love, they caused me no alarms.
I’ve seen far worse on girls from local farms.
A little skewness often calms me down.
So please, my love, don’t send round the gendarmes.
I never did complain about your nose,
Although it’s quite surprising that you chose
That singular proboscis. I suppose
It makes you quite distinctive, like your clothes.
More easily described in prose than verse,
You’re better active, worse when in repose.
And darling, though it’s true I said you smelt,
I meant “of roses”, honestly! I’d spelt
It out clearly. I don’t know why you felt
That I’d been less than kind. You’re sweet, you’re svelte,
My poor heart raced when I knelt to request
Your hand. Your bum’s the best I’ve ever felt.
Each line has 10 syllables – in no particular metre, though I seem to have lapsed into iambic pentameter here. All lines of each stanza, except for the penultimate one, rhyme together in the conventional way. The penultimate line rhymes with them all in an unconventional way – its seventh, eighth or ninth syllable contains the rhyme. Furthermore, the word at the end of the penultimate line rhymes with a word somewhere in the middle of the last line. In the first stanza above, for example, there’s disease/sneeze and heart/start.
The first 4 lines are the hir, and the last two are the toddaid (which mutates to thoddaid when you put the phrase together, due to the endearing pecularities of the Welsh language). The hir can have 2 lines or 6, rather than the 4 used here, but all its lines must always rhyme together.
The books by Hopgood and Skelton agree about this form, and that’s good enough for me. Some sites on the web say the last line should have only 9 syllables, but I suspect they are wrong.
And if you don’t believe CYNGHAHEDD makes this difficult poetry to write, with the expertise to determine is praiseworthy or even correct limited to a few Welsh and a very few other poets, take a look at what Wikipedia has to say about it
I have found little joy in reading such poems as they almost always appear stilted.
So I am (after viewing others) going with Bob Newman’s interpretation and recommendation – let those writing in English write enjoyable poetry.
Restated specification for Hir a Thoddaid:
A poem of either 6 or 8 lines.
Stanzaic: Consisting of a hir (being either a mono-rhymed quatrain or sestet,
and a toddaid which is a couplet with interlaced rhyme.
Isosyllabic: 10 syllables
Here is my example poem:
Crinoline Tease (Hir a Thoddaid)
You dressed in fancy silks and satin clothes
and feather boas, hats, and nylon hose,
and crinoline as well to augment those.
and not in frequently you would expose
a flash of flesh to decompose a guest.
I liked that best, and therefore I proposed.
Somehow you liked me wearing my plainclothes.
You ate me up with eyes just like a doe’s.
When we’re together we forget our woes
I thrill to sit nearby when you repose
and lean and touch you with my nose and lips
and touch your breast and hips while still you pose.
© Lawrencealot – December 26, 2013
Related Welsh Form are HERE.