Awdl

An awdl is a Welsh ode. Awdlau (that's the plural) come in twelve different varieties, and it will take me a while to get through them all (if I ever do). All the poems on this page will be awdlau. 

There are 24 Welsh standard verse forms altogether. The other twelve are made up of eight kinds of englyn and four kinds of cywydd.

One important reservation: I believe all Welsh-language awdlau are required to exhibit some kind of cynghanedd in every line. In the descriptions below, this will not be mentioned (and in the examples, I will not attempt it). It is just too difficult and complicated for us non-Celts. If you really want to get to grips with this, I recommend the book Singing in Chains (see books page). 

As Confucius once remarked, the page of a dozen awdlau begins with a single form:

Hir a Thoddaid

According to Singing in Chains, the Hir a Thoddaid is the most common form of awdl nowadays. Here's a silly example:

Lovesick
I take back what I said about your knees -
They hardly knock at all. Forgive me, please.
My meaning and my words are chalk and cheese.
I love to cuddle you. Youíre not obese.
I have caught a rare disease of the heart
When I see you I start to want to sneeze.

I didnít mean to speak ill of your chin.
In pointing out it emphasised how thin
Your body was, I thought Iíd make you grin.
Is paying you such compliments a sin?
I see Iíll have to discipline my tongue -
The songs I would have sung must stay within.

Iím sure that I did not suggest your armsí
Uneven lengths failed to augment your charms.
Believe me, love, they caused me no alarms.
Iíve seem far worse on girls from local farms.
A little skewness often calms me down.
So please, my love, donít send round the gendarmes.

I never did complain about your nose,
Although itís quite surprising that you chose
That singular proboscis. I suppose
It makes you quite distinctive, like your clothes.
More easily described in prose than verse,
Youíre better active, worse when in repose.

And darling, though itís true I said you smelt,
I meant ďof rosesĒ, honestly! Iíd spelt
It out clearly. I donít know why you felt
That Iíd been less than kind. Youíre sweet, youíre svelte,
My poor heart raced when I knelt to request
Your hand. Your bumís the best Iíve ever felt.

Each line has 10 syllables - in no particular metre, though I seem to have lapsed into iambic pentameter here. All lines of each stanza, except for the penultimate one, rhyme together in the conventional way. The penultimate line rhymes with them all in an unconventional way - its seventh, eighth or ninth syllable contains the rhyme. Furthermore, the word at the end of the penultimate line rhymes with a word somewhere in the middle of the last line. In the first stanza above, for example, there's disease/sneeze and heart/start

The first 4 lines are the hir, and the last two are the toddaid (which mutates to thoddaid when you put the phrase together, due to the endearing pecularities of the Welsh language). The hir can have 2 lines or 6, rather than the 4 used here, but all its lines must always rhyme together. 

The books by Hopgood and Skelton agree about this form, and that's good enough for me. Some sites on the web say the last line should have only 9 syllables, but I suspect they are wrong. 

The Arioflotga Project

The poem Lovesick above is the first poem in my Arioflotga project, which will have its own page soon.  

Back to Verse Forms home page. 

© Bob Newman 2010. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 05/06/2010