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Introduction to Thai Poetry
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Text from: Thomas J. Hudak (1990)
The Indigenization of Pali Meters in Thai Poetry.
Monographs in International Studies.
Southeast Asia Series No. 87. Athens: Ohio University.
(with author's permission)

Note: transcriptions of Thai words provided here do not include tone marks.

        All classical Thai poetry, from its earliest appearance during the Sukhothai period (1240s-1345/50) to the present, can be classified into the following types:

(khloong) (chan) (kaap)

      Of these, khloong, raay, and kl@@n are indigenous forms, while kaap (Sanskrit kavya ) and chan (Sanskrit chandas; Pali chando) are borrowed ones.
      Discussions of these verse types appear in versification textbooks known as chanthalak (Pali chando ‘prosody’; lakkhana ‘characteristics’) and in literary anthologies. The chanthalak textbooks forms a part of a general language series which includes
  • akkharawi?thii (Pali akkhara ‘letter’; vidhi ‘way, method, process’)-orthography and phonology;
  • waciiwiphaak (Pali vaci ‘speech’; vibhaga ‘division’)-parts of speech; and
  • wakkayasamphan (Pali vakya ‘words, language; sambandha ‘connection’)-syntax.
Phya Uppakit Silpasarn has written the best publication of this language series and Pluang Na Nakh@@n, the best of the literary anthologies, History of Thai Literature for Students.(in Thai)

      Historically, the verse types have appeared in the following order:
      raay and khloong, kaap, chan, and kl@@n.

Each of these forms has a particular pattern or (khana) that consists of several components. The number and arrangement of the components depend upon the verse type. Essential to these components are the (phayaang) or syllables, each verse type having a specific and require number. In older texts on versification, the word (kham) ‘syllable, word’ is used rather than phayaang. Because Thai words are predominantly monosyllabic, in many cases a syllable in a poem is a word; in cases of polysyllabic words, kham refers to the syllable of the word rather than to the entire word. By using phayaang rather than kham,modern texts have eliminated possible confusion regarding the number of syllables or words in each verse type.

     The components of the khana? as described by all chanthalak and literary anthologies include

  • (1) wak:    a group of syllables written together in one line, the number of syllable depend upon the type;
    a hemistich;
  • (2) baat:   one line of poetry ,generally consisting of two wak although some verse types may have only one wak while others more than two; and
  • (3) bot:   one stanza of poetry, the number of baat dependent upon the verse type. A typical bot without any requirements other than the above components might appear as follows with each O equivalent to one phayaang.
      In Thai texts, wak are printed following one another on the same line rather than under each other.

The major verse types along with their significant features include the following.

    Please follow the link of each verse type for more information and audio samples.


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