Cyhydedd Hir Poetry Form: Master Versatile Lines

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Here’s what the Cyhydedd Hir poetry form is:

Cyhydedd hir is a 19-syllable Welsh verse form that utilizes several rhymes within a very tight space.

The verse is ultimately split into four units of 5/5/5/4 syllables, with a rhyme at the end of each unit.

The first three units rhyme with each other while the last rhyme sets up the next verse.

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

Let’s get started!

Cyhydedd Hir Poem Type (Simply Explained & Examples)

Forms of Poetry: Cyhydedd Hir

Writing on a notebook.

Cyhydedd hir is a Welsh verse form consisting of 19 syllables per verse divided up into four rhyming units.

The last unit of a cyhydedd hir verse will set up a rhyme for the next verse, meaning that this is a form that cannot be achieved in a single-verse poem.

It is one of the 24 codified Welsh meters.

Since the last syllable of the last unit sets up a second verse, poems written entirely in cyhydedd hir will be a minimum of 38 syllables and two verses by design.

Woman reading a book and holding an apple.

Take note that although we call them the Welsh “meters” they are not meters in the English sense.

English meter is typically based on exact patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables, so while these Welsh forms are undeniably formal poetry they are technically not “metric” by the definition you would normally be taught in English-speaking schools.

This ultimately comes down to how differently the concept of meter is handled from language to language.

Among all poetic techniques, meter is easily the one that differs the most.

Basic Properties of Cyhydedd Hir

Rhyme Structure?Strict
PopularityUncommon; mainly restricted to its region of origin

How Is Cyhydedd Hir Structured?

Books on top of a picnic basket.

Cyhydedd hir is unique in that the actual line structure has some flexibility.

The main focus is on writing a total of 19 syllables, divided up into four units.

The first three units are five syllables each and all rhyme with each other, while the final unit of four syllables sets up a rhyme for a second verse in the same format.

A verse of cyhydedd hir can be written as a single line as follows:


Or can be written as a couplet:


There are even examples in which it’s written as a quatrain:


line structure

Other written forms exist as well (such as tercet forms) but however the units are divided up, the important part is that the total verse is 19 syllables.

This lack of uniformity in the written form can probably be traced back to the origins of the form since Welsh poetry has a rich history of being passed down by word of mouth from performer to performer.

In all of the above structures, ‘x’ represents an unrhymed syllable while ‘A’ and ‘B’ represent the two rhyme sounds featured.

It should be noted that there will always be at least two verses by virtue of the way ‘B’ functions in this form.

White paper on a table with a pen, feather, and a hat.

A writer might opt to pair off verses such that the first and second verse share a rhyme, while the third and fourth share a different rhyme, or they might decide to have all verses of a poem written in cyhydedd hir share a single end sound.

As with all of the codified Welsh meters, cyhydedd hir can be extended into longer poems by simply adding more units to the poem.

Once a written format is chosen, it will generally be used uniformly throughout the poem for a consistent presentation.

(So a poem written in quatrains will generally only be written in quatrains.)

Example of Cyhydedd Hir     

lost tourist

A Lost Tourist

The ship has set sail
and though I may wail
‘tis to no avail.
I slept past dawn.

On some far off shore
when they start the tour,
they’ll see me no more,
for I am gone.

The above poem is a simple cyhydedd hir using only two verses, effectively the minimum that the poem can consist of.

split off

In this example each unit has been split off into its own line to make the structure as easy to understand as possible.

While the form may look simple, due to its brevity, it is deceptively difficult.

Pulling off three rhymes within just fifteen syllables is a demanding task in English, not made any easier by the inclusion of a cross-verse rhyme at the end.

The challenge in this case actually comes from how short the units are, more than anything else.

Tips for Writing in Cyhydedd Hir

short words

In general, you’ll need to limit yourself to short words.

While it is theoretically possible to include words with up to five syllables, it will be incredibly difficult to set up each end sound if you don’t give yourself enough words to work with.

Words with only one or two syllables tend to be optimal.

The end sounds will require you to be constantly thinking about how to set up the next one.

Five syllables (and worse four at the end) isn’t a lot of space to work with.

As such, you should make it a point to choose a word that’s easy to rhyme with at the beginning of every verse.

point to choose

Easy rhymes will also make it easier to avoid slant rhymes, since each verse of cyhydedd hir uses its main rhyme sound three times.

While this would be easy in languages that heavily employ suffix-conjugation, English famously has a variety of words that are extremely difficult to work with. (Such as the classic example ‘orange.’)

Try to stick with simple themes, if possible.

Narrative poems tend to be easier to write in cyhydedd hir since anything can happen next, while exposition is much harder to use effectively because of how little space you have to reach logical conclusions.

Poet’s Note

Pen lays on paper.

I didn’t enjoy writing an example for this one, just so we’re clear.

Five syllables is a miserable amount of space to work with in a rhyming poem.

Write in this form at your own risk.

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