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Letrilla

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Spanish Verse

The Letrilla is a short strophic form from 16th century Spain that is usually humorous or satirical. The form can sometimes be found in religious verse also. This lyrical verse is written with a theme refrain of any number of lines which usually begins and ends the poem.

The elements of the Letrilla are:

  1. strophic, any number of lines contained in the strophe.
  2. syllabic, often written in 6 or 8 syllable lines. Lines should be short and approximate length.
  3. composed with a refrain which begins and ends the piece.
  4. rhymed, rhyme scheme would depend on the length of the strophe. The theme refrain AA (or however many lines) and the strophe rhyme is often envelope rhyme AA bccb ba AA or AA bcccba AA etc .
    Letrilla by Francesco de Quevedo 1580-1645                 

    Poderosos caballero
    es don Dinero
    Madre, yo al oro me humillo
    el es mi amante y mi amado,
    pues de puro enamorado,
    anda contino amarillo;

    que pues doblon o sencillo,
    hace todo cuanto quiero
    poderoso caballero
    es don Dinero.

    Letrilla by Francesco de Quevedo
    translated by Judi Van Gorder

    A powerful horseman
    is Mr. Money.
    Mother, because of gold I make a fool of myself,
    It is my lover and my beloved
    because it is purest love.
    it walks a golden path.

    Whether complicated or simple
    It does all that I want
    A powerful horseman
    is Mr. Money.

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