Friday, November 11, 2011

Your feet sure do show it ’cause they’re Longfellows*

Lots of bloggers are blogging today about Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in the U.K. and I thought I would do something different, something to get your mind off yesterday’s post, something a little more suited for the parlors of ladies and gentlemen everywhere -- poetry!

Not just any poetry, mind you. Esoteric forms of Welsh poetry.

Yes, you read that correctly. Esoteric forms of Welsh poetry.

[Editor’s note. That asterisk at the end of the title of this post is there to remind me to tell you that when I was young we had a little ditty reserved for those special moments when someone would be talking and inadvertently make a little rhyme. We would chant: “You’re a poet and don’t know it, but your feet sure do show it ’cause they're Longfellows” and then we would laugh and laugh. --RWP]

I discovered a blog the other day called Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and on it a post called I Gymryd Anadl. It introduced me to the toddaid, a type of Welsh poem. In case you didn’t know it, there are many types of Welsh poems.

Poking around in Wikipedia, I also found an entry called Traditional Welsh Poetic Meters where I learned that the traditional Welsh poetic meters consist of twenty-four different types of poetic meter, called Y Pedwar Mesur ar Hugain. They are all written in cynghanedd of varying degrees of complexity.

Say what?

Although called “traditional,” they were compiled -- and later redefined at least once -- in the Late Middle Ages and omit some of the older forms such as the englyn milwr. Only a few of them were widely used by the professional poets (Beirdd yr Uchelwyr), and the use of some of the more complicated ones is confined to occasional poems of technical virtuosity dating to the end of the Middle Ages.

I know you miss the englyn milwr as much as I do, and also the Beirdd yr Uchelwyr.

As I was saying, there are twenty-four traditional Welsh poetic meters. You just know I am now going to tell you what they are:

1. Awdl-gywydd
2. Byr-a-thoddaid
3. Cadwynfyr
4. Clogyrnach
5. Cyhydedd Fer
6. Cyhydedd Hir
7. Cyhydedd Naw Ban
8. Cyrch-a-chwta
9. Cywydd Deuair Fyrion
10. Cywydd Deuair Hirion
11. Cywydd Llosgyrnog
12. Englyn Proest Cyfnewidiog
13. Englyn Proest Cadwynog
14. Englyn Unodl Crwca
15. Englyn Unodl Union
16. Gorchest Beirdd
17. Gwawdodyn Byr
18. Gwawdodyn Hir
19. Hir-a-thoddaid
20. Rhupunt Byr
21. Rhupunt Hir
22. Rhupunt Hwyaf
23. Tawddgyrch Cadwynog
24. Toddaid

See how erudite we are becoming?

We will ignore the first 23 of the traditional Welsh poetic meters, however, and examine only the last one, number 24, the Toddaid.

Thanks be to God.

A toddaid is a couplet (two lines) of uneven length, often written in quatrain (four-line) form. In each couplet, line one contains ten syllables and line two contains nine syllables. The rhyme is internal (occurring at a place other than at the end of the line). Specifically, the fifth syllable of the first line must rhyme with the fourth syllable of the second line in each couplet. When the toddaid is extended into quatrain form (two couplets), there must also be an end rhyme in the final syllables of lines two and four.

Isn’t that simple?

Let’s review.

Here is the pattern for the couplet, where each character represents a syllable and the capital letters represent the syllables that rhyme:


Here is the pattern for the quatrain form:


Got that?

By now, following the pattern, anyone (even you) should be able to write a toddaid.

Therefore, give it the old college try and then show your fellow victims readers the result in the comments section.

Oh, one other thing. Since I am a caring and compassionate person, I hereby suspend the requirement that the toddaid be created in the Welsh language. For this little exercise, we will use English. Teacher’s pet Carolina in Nederland is the sole exception. She may write her toddaid in Dutch if she likes, but she must then translate it into English, making sure to maintain the required number of syllables and the rhyme scheme.

Here’s a toddaid of my own:

[Editor’s note 2. Are you kidding? I ain’t got no time to come up with no fool toddaid. As for the example of one that appeared on that I Gymryd Anadl post:

For we must not hide from the coming day,
locked away, far from the living earth;
The whole of humanity must be joined,
and each value the coin of rebirth.

it has the correct number of syllables in each line as well as the required end-rhymes of the second and fourth lines, but it does
NOT contain either of the required internal rhymes in the couplets (well, it does, but not in the syllables indicated), so it is technically not a toddaid, I don’t care what I Gymryd Anadl says. --RWP]

[Editor’s note 3. If this post doesn’t drive away those dadblamed devotees of pole dancing (notice the alliteration, class), nothing will. --RWP]

[Editor’s note 4. Do not grumble and complain about today’s writing assignment. Just remember, I could have asked you to write cynghanedd of varying degrees of complexity. --RWP]

[Editor’s note 5. Writing a toddaid is an act done on purpose. No one has ever inadvertently written a toddaid, not even people with big feet. --RWP]

[Editor’s note 6. I believe I have set a new personal record for editor’s notes in a single post. --RWP]


  1. Your spell-checker must have given up and retired to the country when you presented it with this post!

  2. Mr. Parrots, Sir, I never use a spell-checker. I rely on my incredibly retentive brain. Funny thing, though. I often miss seeing errors in Courier type, but spot them easily in Times Roman. What is that about, I wonder?

    In your spare time, perhaps you could create a Welsh spell-checker. There must be a great demand for one.

  3. If ever there was a challenging rhyme
    I cannot pass the toddaid of Brague.
    He gave us the task to write one, but it’s too much to ask, it stays rather vague.

    Sorry, couldn't do better ;-)

  4. Oops, forgot to tick the email box. Looking forward to the other toddaids ;-)

  5. And oddly enough, I found it easier to write it in English. Will try to write a Dutch one too though, and translate it. Who needs sleep anyway ;-)

  6. Carolina! I knew I could count on you! Your English-language toddaid is excellent, perfect in every respect, and mentions me. You get extra credit!

  7. Thank you. But I don't think it's perfect. I have my doubts about line 2.
    And I'm sorry, but the Dutch/English proves to be even more challenging than a 'normal' toddaid ;-)

  8. Carolina, the only way it isn't perfect is if "toddaid" is a three-syllable word instead of a two-syllable word. Is there a Welshman in the crowd?

    I was actually joking about the Dutch/English translation requirement. To do one in Dutch would be feat enough!

  9. I've have visited your blog a few times now, enjoying what I read, but with this post, I'm challenged to join in the fun. How's this:

    Papers to grade and lesson plans to plan
    A list long, not enough hands to do.
    Mother, teacher, blogger, and housemaid too;
    Yet, a toddaid created for you

    I'm using poetic license (literally!) to make "housemaid" rhyme with "toddaid"...

    Hope you enjoy. Love your interesting and educational posts!

  10. I think I heard a sigh of relief emanating from the Low Countries!

    Welcome, LightExpectations, to the blog! Your toddaid is (almost) perfect as well. Maybe we'll have to relax the "at the syllable indicated" requirement -- which means we'll never be accepted in the Welsh Academy of Letters, if there is such a thing.

  11. Here's my very simple toddaid couplet:

    Long ago and far away the wind blew,
    Around a star and back down to earth.

    Now I will work on the quatrain version.

  12. Wow, I am impressed with LightExpectations, Carolina in Nederland, and now Jeannelle of Iowa as they have all come up with excellent toddaids!

    This post turned out to be a case of "Don't do as I do, do as I say" because my mind couldn't seem to wrap itself around the toddaid challenge. I get a big, fat zero on this assignment.