Awdl Gywydd Poetry Form: Cherish Welsh Legacy

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Here’s what the Awdl Gywydd poetry form is:

Awdl gywydd is a verse form from Ireland that consists of rhymed quatrains with interlocking couplets, connected by a unique rhyme scheme that ties the lines together with both internal rhymes and end rhymes.

The lines are always seven syllables long and the poems can be any length in multiples of four lines.

So if you want to learn all about the Awdl Gywydd poetry type, then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s delve into it!

Featured Awdl Gywydd Poem Type

Forms of Poetry: Awdl Gywydd

Poetry book and decorative dried flowers in glass bottle.

Awdl gywydd is a style of Irish verse consisting of rhymed quatrains that utilize interlaced couplets.

As with many Irish forms, the style relies heavily on sounds and syllable counts, despite not being a metric poem form.

Irish forms get their obsession with sound and rhyme predominantly from their history.

Irish poetry predates the spread of written language and was a mostly oral tradition for a long span of the region’s history.

That’s why many of the poem forms that cropped up from those ancient traditions maintain phonetic techniques that make the poems easier for performers to remember.

Basic Properties of the Awdl Gywydd

Magical morning light, trees, over enchanting woman with wavy hairs in red dress.
Rhyme StructureYes
OriginIrish oral traditions
PopularityNot utilized frequently in mainstream English poetry but well known in Ireland

How Is Awdl Gywydd Structured?

Female hands on empty notepad with pen and flowerpot.

Awdl gywdd is written entirely in quatrains.

A poem can be as short as four lines or as many quatrains as the poet desires, provided they follow the consistent stylistic elements of the form.

All lines are expected to be seven syllables in length.

Despite the attention to syllable counts, awdl gywdd is not a metric form.

This is true of most of the old Irish forms, which tend to prescribe syllable counts without meter.

The rhyme scheme of a poem written as awdl gywdd is unique in that it utilizes a combination of internal rhyme and end rhyme.

Specifically, the rhyme scheme can be written as A(AB)B(BC), in which AB and BC represent interlaced instances of rhyme.

An easier way to visualize this is to write it as follows:


In the above diagram, each letter represents one of the 28 syllables of the quatrain.

Each “x” represents an unrhymed syllable while the other letters correspond to specific end sounds.

Top view of open notebook, marker and bouquet of alstroemeria flowers, white sheet of paper for text

Note that the internal rhymes on the second and fourth lines can slide around a bit, but they are usually near the middle of the line so as to maintain rhythm.

Slant rhymes tend to be accepted for the internal rhymes, but the end sound represented by “b” should be a perfect rhyme.

When writing in Irish forms it’s a good idea to employ as much alliteration and consonance as possible. Multisyllabic rhymes are prized but not necessary for this form.

A core property of old Irish poetry is the concept of cywddydd or “harmony of sound.” This harmony is mostly achieved through rhymes and phonetic repetitions.

Example of an Awdl Gywdd Poem

Beautiful couple holding hands walking against a view of flowers.

Tonight I tempt fickle fate
coming home late with strangers.
You may think me a dense heel
but I won’t yield to danger.

Many a good night begins
with merry whims such as this.
What sort of man would reject
a chance to accept a kiss?

If you pay attention to the syllable counts you’ll note that the internal rhymes, signified by the italics on the second and fourth lines of the stanzas, tend to stay close to the fourth syllable.

Since the fourth syllable is the exact center of the seven-syllable lines, it’s a good idea to keep the rhyme as close to that position as possible.

The second and fourth lines need to maintain true rhyme if possible, exemplified here in bold.

White paper for romantic messages, male and female hands on either side of notebook

Near-rhyme is alright for the internal rhymes, provided the intended structure is still clear to the reader.

The form lends itself well to couplets due to the way it weaves the lines together.

This example plays with that tendency by utilizing a hard stop on the even-numbered lines.

This particular form lends itself well to humorous and whimsical tones since the internal rhymes set it up well for faster pacing than the average poem.

There’s no hard rule as to what you are and are not allowed to write about, but it may be worth looking for ways to take advantage of the structure’s inherent bounciness.

Tips for Writing Awdl Gywydd

Woman writing on notebook with white quill pen.

The main points of interest in an awdl gywydd style poem are the rhyme scheme and the unusual syllable length.

English poets often default to even-numbered lines, so much so that even metric feet with an even number of syllables tend to be preferred.

As such, you may find the seven-syllable lines to be initially challenging if you’ve subconsciously conditioned yourself to write in multiples of two syllables.

This is easy to adapt to, however.

As soon as you realize that you can use adverbs and adjectives to fill out small spaces in the line, it becomes much easier to fit the syllable count accordingly.

Seven lines are only enough space for one crisp image or thought, so try to avoid too many flourishes in your writing.

The odd-numbered lines offer more freedom and flexibility since you need only concern yourself with the sound of the last syllable.

This is a good place to frame the incoming lines with the context or to flex your knowledge of alliteration.

female hand writing on the beach

They also give you some wiggle room when editing, since changing the odd-numbered lines creates fewer problems than changing the lines that have two rhyme sounds in them.

The even-numbered lines look more intimidating than they actually are.

Remember that the middle of the line is always tied to the preceding line while the end of the line is tied to the other even-numbered line in the quatrain.

Since the rhymes attach to two different lines, it’s deceptively easy to adjust the rhymes with a little practice.

One key thing to remember when writing in awdl gywydd form is that these old Irish forms are closely tied to the images of bards and oral delivery in their homeland.

Reading the poem out loud to yourself while you’re working and after you finish is a good way to gauge how well you’ve captured the spirit of the form.

Poet’s Note

Pen lays on paper.

Ireland really loves its quatrains.

Ae fraeslighe, breccbairdne, and awdl gywydd are all verse forms that specifically utilize rhymed quatrains.

It’s likely that many or all of these quatrain forms share a common ancestral form, but since written records came after the spread of poetry in Ireland it’s hard to say for sure.

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