Home > B. The Living Artifact > The eisteddfod and Welsh Poetry

The eisteddfod and Welsh Poetry

File:Eisteddfod 1991.jpg

Wales takes its poetry seriously (RT thoroughly approves). Each year, the country holds a national competition for Welsh-language poetry, the eisteddfod, staged in the first week of August. Upwards of six thousand poets vie for the crown or chair of poetry; the event draws more than 150,000 visitors. And readers, please note: the first eisteddfod was held in 1176.

Welsh poetry is an intricate thing: there are twenty-four traditional metrical forms written using the basic poetic line. Here are the rules for one of these forms:

Cynghanedd lusg (“drag-harmony”)

The final syllable before the caesura in the first half of the line makes full rhyme with the penultimate syllable of the line-final polysyllabic word (i.e. the main stressed syllable of the second half). For example:

duw er ei radd / a'i addef,

Lest we be tempted to think that Welsh poetry is all syllable-counting and rhyme hunting, we should bear in mind that at its origins and throughout its history stand poets of undisputed genius: Aneirin (fl. 550), Taliesin (2nd half of 6th century), and Dafydd ap Gwilym (c. 1315-1350, and generally considered to be Wales’ greatest poet).

No overview of Welsh literature, however brief, can overlook the Mabinogion, a compilation of several traditional tales; the earliest manuscripts date to the second half of the 14th century, though the stories contain ancient material and motifs that originate with the arrival of the Brythons in Great Britain.

RT

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Photo: Prifardd (Chief Bard) Robert Owein in the Bardic Chair, 1991. Photographer: Llywelyn. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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