Englyns: From Ceredigion


I’m lost. I had not planned to come this way.
Heart gripped in Fear’s chill hand
For there are, I understand
Dragons living in this land.


An island in a sea of rain-raked grass
Where kites wheel watchfully.
Thick-walled, four-square sanctuary
With food, fire and family.


Two circles, dug deep, high on this bleak hill.
Walled with stone, roofed with sky.
Where we watch the red kites fly,
Armed men stood once, doomed to die.


The red kite, wind-borne, keeps his lone watch while
The frozen forest sleeps:
In the hearth a bright fire leaps;
Round the house, Midwinter creeps.


The englyn is new to me, but it is, of course, a very ancient form: part of the Welsh bardic tradition, englyns are still regularly recited at Eisteddfod. Like the Japanese haiku, the englyn is based on syllable count – 10 in the first line, then six, seven and seven – with the added twist that the sixth syllable of the first line introduces the end-rhyme for the following three lines. Confused? I was.

Anyway, we were staying with my wife’s family in west Wales over Christmas, so it seemed the ideal opportunity to blend medium and material. The second poem in this sequence is about my mother-in-law’s house, while the third was inspired by the Iron Age fort on the hill above it. No apologies for the repeated red kite references: having once been hunted virtually to extinction, they’re now as common as sparrows in those parts. And very beautiful they are, too. Happy New Year to one and all. N.

5 thoughts on “Englyns: From Ceredigion

    • Hi David – lovely to hear from you, and trust all is well. The Welsh kites are fantastic, but I was truly thrilled to see one over the fields near Reading on the way there! I’ve also seen one apiece in West and East Sussex; when they’re flying over my house (as the buzzards sometimes do) I shall be a very happy man indeed. My very best for 2013. N.

    • Thank you John – I must confess I’ve never quite got to grips with the full depth and subtlety of haiku, and I dare say my englyns fall some way short of Eisteddfod standard (they’re in English for a start!) but I rather like this form; there’s a bit more room for manoeuvre, if I can put it that way. And as an ad man by trade, I do like it when medium and message come together! N.

  1. Love these englyns, particularly the mention of the dragon in the first. I like working with the Welsh forms as Brythonic was the language of the people where I live in Lancashire before the Saxons came over.

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