minstrel: Triads

Heather Rose Jones hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Wed Jan 29 03:37:32 PST 1997


On Tue, 28 Jan 1997, mary k cummings wrote:

> I suppose a Welsh triad begins then with the same word in each line?  

Not usually.

> Then, is there a rhythm scheme that you follow for the rest of the 
> lines?  I didn't see one, but might be as tired as I feel. 

Again, not usually. The oldest collections of triads (e.g., those in
Bromwich's book "The Welsh Triads" consist of a "title" providing the
theme of the triad, and then simply a list of the members. Here's a pretty
typical example:

"Tri Overveird Enys Prydein
	Arthur,
	A Chatwallaun mab Catvan,
	A Rahaut eil Morgant.
Three Frivolous Bards of the Island of Britain:
	Arthur,
	and Cadwallawn son of Cadfan
	and Rahawd son of Morgant"

"Frivolous" in this context seems to mean "people who occasionally tossed
off poetry off the cuff, but who were not professional bards".

Now, the same concept (although a somewhat different list of members) was
sett metrically by Guto'r Glyn in an elegy to Einion ap Gruffudd:

"Trywyr a ddug tair awen
Y tri oferfardd hardd hen;
Arthur aestew a Thrystan,
A Llywarch, pen cyfarch can.
Pedwerydd prydyddm pe rhaid,
Fu Einion, nef i'w enaid!

Three men who bore three poetic gifts,
the three fine old Frivolous Bards:
Arthur of stout shield, and Trystan,
and Llywarch, lor of address in song.
A fourth poet, if need be,
was Einion, heaven to his soul!"

In general, metrical triads are more long-winded -- which is pretty much a
requirement unless there was apt material to work with. The following one
_may_ be an exception: the syllable-count for the lines is 8:6:6:8 and
each line ends in the type of rhyme called "proest" ("half-rhyme", where
the consonant is constant but the vowel can vary). This doesn't correspond
to any of the "standard" meters, but uses similar building blocks.

"Teir Gwenriein Ynys Prydein:
Kreiruy merch Keritwen,
Ac Aryanrot verch Don,
A Gwen verch Kywryt mab Krydon

Three Fair Maidens of the Island of Britain:
Creirwy, daughter of Ceridwen,
and Arianrhod daughter of Don,
and Gwen daughter of Cywryd son of Crydon."

> What about concepts?  Can you use the same concept in the opening of the 
> lines?

As I mention above, usually the "concept" is given in the introduction and
the triad proper is more like a simple list. Sometimes you will find pairs
of triads contrasting different faces of the same concept, as in the
triadic advice for performers found in the Bardic Grammars:

"Three things strengthen verse: depth of meaning, and excellance of
imagination, and fluency in the language; three things weaken verse:
shallowness of meaning, and cliche/ed imagination, and a lack of fluency
in the language." [my translation]

Or you may find long runs of triads on the same theme, such as the triads
of the horses (The Three Bestowed Horses; The Three Chief Steeds;  The
Three Plundered Horses; The Three Lovers' Horses; The Three Lively Steeds;
etc. etc.).

Hmm ... I'm starting to think maybe I can get back to sleep now. Let's
give it a try.

Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn


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