Cynghanedd (IPA: \kəŋˈ haː ˌ nɛð\, plural Cynganeddion) is the system of rules for selecting sounds to include within a single line of poetry in the Welsh language, depending on end rhyme, internal rhyme, vowel harmony, alliteration and other consonantal harmonies, syllable stress patterns and vowel length, and syllable counting. Cynghanedd is used throughout Welsh poetic forms, including the englyn, the awdl, cywydd and cerdd dafod, and the toddaid.

Welsh, cyn- 'with, together' (from Old Welsh com-) + canu 'to sing' in its nasal consonant mutation nghanu + -edd '-ness'; cognate with (not descended from) Latin cum 'with, together,' and canō 'I sing'

From this etymology, we can derive the nearest literal English equivalent of cynghanedd to be "harmony," "concord," or "consonance," though an alternative translation of "chiming" is frequently used, due to the word's pleasing resemblance to the word "rhyming."

A line containing cynghanedd will typically have seven syllables and either one or two caesura in it; a caesura is a place in the line where a new repetition or iteration of a cynghanedd pattern will begin, and the previous iteration ends. In a strict adherence to cynghanedd groes, "cross harmony" or "criss-cross harmony," arguably the most rigid cynghanedd rule, all of the consonants which appear before the first caesura will appear after every subsequent caesura within the same line, in the same order, although the consonants /r/ and /n/ are often omitted due to their roles as grammatical particles in Welsh, and likewise any silent and elided consonants may be omitted. An English example of this is the line, "Over water / very wet," which features the consonants v, r, w, and t in the same sequence on both sides of the caesura represented by the slash. The final /r/ in "water" is able to be omitted due to its elision in many English accents.

Lines of cynghanedd are sometimes expected or required to share an end rhyme with another line in the same poem, such as the englyn and the cywydd meter (which uses strictly rhyming couplets of cynghanedd), while in other forms it is less necessary and desirable to have end rhymes (similar to free verse and blank verse in English). Cynghanedd does not permit the end rhyme of a line to be the same as the rhyme before another caesura in the same line, even though other forms of internal rhyme are encouraged, meaning that if the terminal words at the caesura of the same line would rhyme, an alternative word must be selected to replace one of them in order to avoid this rhyme. Welsh considers a single final syllable in common to be a sufficient rhyme, even when it is a weak syllable, where English resists defining any pair of words as rhyming on a weak syllable, so English considers "under, wonder, thunder" to rhyme but not "cinder" or any other words without a strong syllable in common, but Welsh would consider "cinder, slider, gander" to rhyme on their terminal unstressed "-der."

Welsh digraphs such as /Ll/, /Ch/, /Dd/, and loanword digraphs to represent foreign sounds such as /Ts/, are treated as a single consonant within cynghanedd. Consonant clusters such as /-rd/ and /pl-/ may be reiterated as clusters or separated into their distinct consonants. A consonant may be reiterated as a mutation of itself, such as /r/ and /rh/ or /ch/ and /ngh/, though this is considered a more casual and playful adherence to cynghanedd, rather than a strict adherence, meaning it is more likely to appear in poetry and song lyrics that are not being submitted in competitions such as Eisteddfod. Syllabic consonants like English /y/ and /w/, which can act as part of a vowel or diphthong, or as a standalone consonant, are able to act flexibly as vowel or consonant in cynghanedd.

There are many subcategories of cynghanedd, with diverse and inconsistent labeling conventions for many of them, but the three varieties which see the most frequent and recognisable use in competitive settings, other than cross harmony, are the cynganeddion draws (drawn harmony, also called bridging harmony or partial crossing harmony), sain (sound harmony, also called sonorous harmony or echoing harmony), and lusg (dragging, lugging, or pulling harmony, also confusingly called echoing harmony). Other forms of cynghanedd are generally regarded as hybrid forms between two or more of these four primary forms.

Drawn harmony is simply a less strict form of cross harmony: not all consonants must be present between all caesurae; even having only a single alliteration across a caesura is acceptable as a drawn harmony, though this extreme minimal adherence to cynghanedd is considered faintly uncouth. The excess consonants must only be in the second section, after the caesura, and they must appear before the echoed consonants, creating a "bridge" over the unrepeating consonants. An English example of this is the line, "Go down / and I'll guide you on." The /w/ in "down" is part of a vowel diphthong, and the /y/ in "you" can be treated as a vowel, so the /-nd, -ll/ of "and I'll" are the "bridged" portion of the second section, and the /g, d, n/ are the "echoed" portion.

Sound harmony is an internal rhyme or vowel harmony in a line with two caesurae instead of one, adhering to end rhymes on sections 1 and 2, and to cross harmony on sections 2 and 3, but having no shared end rhyme in section 3 (the end of the line), and with section 1 having no consonants in common with the latter two sections. An English example of this is the line, "Ever / to cover / the cave." The words "ever" and "cover" are regarded as rhyming, and the /t/ in "to" is considered equivalent (by mutation) with /th/ in "the." The /r/ in "cover" can be elided and needs not repeat in the third segment.

Lugging harmony is a variant of sound harmony, using only one caesura, and featuring an internal rhyme on the penultimate (and necessarily stressed) syllable of the final word of the line. An English example of this is the line, "Just say the word / unburdened." The word "word" before the caesura rhymes with the penultimate syllable "-burd-" in "unburdened."

Relationship with English
Though its precise rules and the labels for its subcategories were not formally codified until the 13th and 14th centuries, cynghanedd has been present and recognisable in Welsh poetry since the 6th century CE, contemporaneous with the writing of Beowulf, an Old English epic poem which also has clearly recognisable consonantal harmonies appearing across caesurae within a line, such as on line 172, "wið fær-gryrum to geframmanne," which translates into "The highest in the land / would lend advice." Alliteration remains a strong element of English poetry today, even in poetry which disregards rhyming and syllable weight; the resilience of alliteration in both languages dates back to this apparent shared period of origin, when the early poetic conventions in legends and folklore of both languages established alliteration as a valuable artistic feature for a poem to possess.

Many English language poets, among them Dylan Thomas, Waldo Williams, W.H. Auden, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, have clear cynghanedd influences present in their poetry, but strict adherence to cynghanedd groes and cynghanedd sain is not highly feasible in English, due to the inherent phonology and morphology of the language. English is a highly isolating language compared to Welsh, a highly inflecting language, meaning that English has vast numbers of possible end rhymes and consonant clusters, and relatively few words featuring any single exact rhyme or cluster. Welsh, meanwhile, has fairly few possible end rhymes and clusters, but these few options are vastly abundant throughout the Welsh language (with consonant mutations granting even more flexibility). In other words, for the purposes of English attempts at true cynghanedd, it can reasonably be argued that most of the good, qualifying rhymes have "already been used up" to the point of extreme predictability and foregone conclusions for how lines will end, and that - due to English preferring rhymes to feature a strong syllable, not only a weak syllable - cynghanedd in English sounds stilted and jarring.

This natural structural resistance to the efforts of the English language to colonise an intrinsically Welsh art form is seen as a strength and an asset for the longevity of Welsh poetry, in an age when Welsh language education in schools in the United Kingdom is only just beginning to see a renaissance, after the language had nearly been driven to extinction. Under King Henry VIII and his Act of Union in 1536, use of Welsh was banned in Britain, and laws were passed to remove the official status of the Welsh language. In the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the use of Welsh in elementary schools was still punished and stigmatised with the use of tools such as the Welsh Not token, an item used in classrooms to mark students out for later corporal punishment if they were caught speaking Welsh during class. Even after the discontinuation of these practices, as recently as 2010, Unesco classified Welsh as “vulnerable” in its Atlas of World Languages in Danger, and it has only been since summer of 2020 that linguists have formally declared Welsh unlikely to die out, due to a growing population of speakers. By preserving an art form to a standard which makes it oppositional (even hostile) toward any influx of the English language into Welsh poetry competitions and folk music lyrics, the Welsh language itself has one more toehold to avoid losing its active literary culture.

Iron Noder 2020, 11/30

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