Deachnadh Cummaisc Poetry Form: Open Minds Wide

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Here’s what the Deachnadh Cummaisc poetry form is:

Deachnadh cummaisc is an Irish verse form utilizing quatrains with alternating rhyme (ABAB).

The syllable counts of the stanzas can either be arranged as 8/4/8/4 or 8/4/4/8, so each verse will have a total of 24 syllables by default.

Sound-based techniques like alliteration and cross-rhyme are heavily encouraged.

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

Let’s jump into it!

Deachnadh Cummaisc Poem Type (Simply Explained & Examples)

Forms of Poetry: Deachnadh Cummaisc

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Deachnadh cummaisc is an Irish verse form employing rhymed quatrains.

It is similar to the similarly named deachnadh mor, but the two should not be confused as the syllable counts and underlying expectations for the forms are different.

As with most Celtic forms, the emphasis is on how the poems sounds rather than on how it looks.

As such, it should be understood that repetition-based techniques such as rhyme and alliteration are commonly employed to enhance the aesthetic of the spoken poem.

Basic Properties of Deachnadh Cummaisc

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Rhyme StructureStrict
PopularityGenerally restricted to Irish verse

How Is a Deachnadh Cummaisc Structured?

A deachnadh cummaisc consists entirely of quatrains.

This is a fairly common length for Irish verse forms, making the poem a good introduction to the standards of Irish poetry.

Any number of quatrains is acceptable, so the poem can ultimately be of any length (in multiples of 4 lines).

This is a unique quirk of Celtic verse forms, which typically measure forms by the unit rather than having a concrete length for the entire poem.

Both Gaelic and Welsh forms utilize this mechanic.

A syllable structure of 8/4/8/4 is usually expected, though 8/4/4/8 is also sometimes seen.

Since two of the stanza’s lines are double the other lines, you’ll generally be using those longer lines to carry the weight of the rhyme scheme.

The shorter often act more like decorative accompaniments for the more dominant lines.

Alternating rhyme is mandatory.

The internal rhyme of each quatrain will be ABAB, but it is not required to carry these sounds into the next stanza of the poem.

As a result, poems written in deachnadh cummaisc will commonly have a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF, etc.

It should be noted that this rhyme is traditionally expected to be a consonant rhyme, meaning that a consonant sound will be repeated at either the beginning or end of the word.

English examples of the deachnadh cummaisc seem to be split on whether to interpret the rhyme scheme by this standard or not, but this may simply be due to the relative rarity of consonant rhyme in English poetry.

Deachnadh cummaiscs often utilize disyllabic words at the end of each line, but this is not necessarily mandatory.

There are examples that don’t share this quality.

The form will commonly employ techniques such as alliteration and the unique dunadh, a technique of traditional Irish poetry in which the end of the poem will match the beginning of the poem.

This may mean repeating a word, a phrase, or even an entire line, though the latter is the rarest of the three.

In the event that disyllabic endings are used, the stanza will usually use an aicill rhyme toward the end.

This means that the end sound of the third line will be reused within the final line, specifically at the penultimate word of the poem.

Example of a Deachnadh Cummaisc

Fair fan blows like a soft tempest,
kissing the air,
billowing out in a torrent,
its breath spent fair.

The above example might be a bit clumsy, but it showcases most of the basic expectations for the form.

The 8/4/8/4 ABAB structure is intact.

Note that the basic structure of the form is easily the most mandatory element.

In this example, lines 3 and 4 show the difference between consonant rhyme and what we traditionally see as rhyme in English.

While English speakers would not necessarily see ‘torrent’ and ‘tempest’ as rhyming words, the repetition of the ‘t’ sound at both the beginning and end of each word qualifies them as consonant rhymes twice over.

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A dunadh is employed at the beginning and end, though it is only one word in this case (fair).

You may opt not to use one in your own work but do note that it is an expectation of the form.

One noteworthy twist here is in the syllable counts of the last lines.

While the longer lines do showcase disyllabic endings, the shorter lines only have monosyllabic endings.

The cross-rhyme on the final line is still expected, since the third line is disyllabic. In this case the aicill rhyme is between ‘torrent’ and ‘spent.’

Tips for Writing in Deachnadh Cummaisc

While the list of standards may sound a bit overwhelming at a glance, you should quickly realize that none of them are independently much of a challenge.

It’s really the combination of different techniques that makes the poem somewhat difficult.

The first decision you’ll need to make is how you’re going to handle your endings and rhyme sounds.

Choosing between the commonly accepted English definition of rhyme and the more culturally accurate use of consonant rhyme will be up to your personal discretion.

Both options have their pros and cons.

Using consonant rhyme may go unappreciated by English-speaking readers, since it’s a subtle technique that will generally fly under the radar, while purists may feel disenchanted if your rhymes feel too ‘safe’ for the form.

You simply have to choose which you prefer and roll with it.

As for how to handle the syllable counts of the endings, I tend to prefer that disyllabic endings at least appear on lines one and four, to properly set up the aicill rhyme, but some poets may find aicill rhyme too demanding to commit to.

While a traditional deachnadh cummaisc has a laundry list of expectations and specific techniques that go with the form, the reality is that your mileage will vary.

Irish verse forms are basically unheard of in English, to begin with, so you’re unlikely to find many readers that prioritize a strict adherence to tradition in the first place.

As for my own personal opinion, I feel that a poem matching the syllable counts and rhyme scheme of the form is actually close enough to be called a personal interpretation of the deachnadh cummaisc.

But there are surely literature-loving historians who would call me a heretic for even suggesting that.

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The conventional wisdom for translating foreign forms into English is that you should strive to include as many techniques from the original formula as possible, with understandable modifications where needed.

Haikus are a good example of this phenomenon.

English doesn’t really have perfect correlations to concepts like kigo (seasonal word), kireji (cutting word), or on (a Japanese variant on syllables).

As such, many Western haiku writers never try to incorporate these concepts into their own haikus.

While Celtic forms are much more similar to English poetry than Japanese forms, the concepts that are non-standard to us are still up for debate at this point in time.

The finalized English variants of poem forms typically don’t congeal until after a famous poet puts their foot down and offers a concrete definition for others to follow, so you can consider English adaptations of Irish verse to be in a fairly fluid state right now.

Poet’s Note

Pen lays on paper.

No, I don’t know what deachnadh means.

Don’t ask.

English documentation on Celtic verse forms is sparse at best, which is actually kind of impressive since Ireland and Wales are literally right next to England.

Is it too much to ask that someone just cross over and ask some questions real quick?

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