This information was first prepared, during the school year 1973 by Harold G. Jones and Vern G. Williamsen, for use in teaching a survey of Spanish Literature. After being used for several years in this way, the materials was prepared electronically in 1984 for other academic uses.


To scan a verse (i.e. to count its metrical
syllables), three things must be considered:  (1) the
final word of the verse, (2) syneresis and synaloepha, and (3)
hiatus and dieresis.

	1.   The final word of the verse determines whether the 	
		verse is "verso agudo", "verso llano", or "verso	

		a.   An "agudo" verse ends with an "agudo" word or	
	     		oxytone (i.e. one which is accentuated on its
     			final syllable.  This syllable counts for two 

     		"A/sí,/ con/ tal/ en/ten/der"  7+1=8 syllables
                    (Jorge Manrique)

		b.   A "llano" verse ends with a "llano" word or
     			paroxytone (i.e. one which is accentuated on its
     			penultimate or "next-to-last syllable").     
     			Syllables are neither added nor subtracted from   
     			the "llano" verse.

     		"to/dos/ sen/ti/dos/ hu/ma/nos"  8 syllables
                    (Jorge Manrique)

		c.   An "esdrújulo" verse ends with an
			"esdrújulo" word  or proparoxytone (i.e. one
			which is accentuated on  its antepenultimate 
			syllable).  On counting its syllables, the last 
			word loses a syllable.

     		"A/mor,/ tus/ fuer/zas/ rí/gi/das" 8-1=7 syllables
                    (Lope de Vega)

	2.  Syneresis and synaloepha

		a.   Synaloepha is the union of two or more contiguous
     			vowels (and vowel sounds) between two (sometimes
     			three) words.  Synaloepha is normal
     			and usual in Spanish verse.

     		"En/ tan/to, /que en/ es/te/ tiem/po a/di/vi/no" 
                                   11 syllables
                    (Garcilaso de la Vega)

     		b.   Syneresis is the union of two vowels in the same
          		words which are normally pronounced as two
          		syllables.  Cojear (co/je/ar), for
          		example, is considered to be two syllables rather
          		than three when syneresis applies:  

          	"Pur/pú/reas/ ro/sas/ so/bre/ Ga/la/te/a"
                                        11 syllables
                         (Luis de Góngora)

	3.  Hiatus and dieresis

     		a.   Hiatus and dieresis are the opposites, respec-
          		tively, of synaloepha and syneresis.  Hiatus      
     			is the separation of contiguous vowels of       
          		different words.
   		"Fa/ce/ per/der/ la/ vista//e// a/cor/tar/ la/ vi/da"
                                        14 syllables
                         (Juan Ruiz)

     		b.   Dieresis is the separation of vowels within a
          		single word, i.e. dividing a diphthong into two
          		syllables: (rue/da, rü/e/da).  Dieresis is
			usually signalled with two dots placed above the
			weaker vowel of the affected diphthong.

          	"¡Oh,/ be/lla/ Ga/la/te/a,/ más/ sü/a/ve..."
                                        11 syllables
                         (Luis de Góngora)

	In order to scan the number of syllables in a verse-form
used in a particular poem, a verse should be sought in which
synaloepha and syneresis, hiatus and dieresis cannot take place. 
Adjust the number of syllables by considering whether the verse
is "agudo" (add one syllable), "llano" (neither add nor sub-
tract), or "esdrújulo" (subtract one syllable).  When the
syllable-count of this verse has been determined, the other
verses can be scanned to yield the same number of syllables,
using synaloepha, syneresis, hiatus, and dieresis when necessary
to yield the right number.  If, after making use of these poetic
licenses , correct syllable-count is still not achieved, the
verse is "irregular" or "defective" (depending on whether the
irregularity is or is not intentional). 

     For example:

               No a las palomas concedió Cupido
               juntar  de los dos picos los rubíes,
               cuando al clavel el joven atrevido
               las dos hojas le chupa carmesíes.
               Cuantas produce Pafo, engendre Gnido
               negras violas, blancos alhelíes
               llueven sobre el que amor quiere que sea
               tálamo de Acis ya y de Galatea.
                                   (Luis de Góngora)

     In this excerpt only one verse can be scanned where synaloe-
pha, etc., cannot be applied:

               juntar de los dos picos los rubíes,

The syllabic count of this "llano" verse is 11 syllables (or
"verso endecasílabo").  Thus all the others are likely to
have the same count and they do, when the various techniques are
applied.  Note, for example, the synaloepha in the first verse:

       No a/ las/ pa/lo/mas/ con/ce/dió/ Cu/pi/do.

Note also the dieresis in the sixth verse:

       ne/gras/ vï/o/las/ blan/cos/ al/he/lí/es   

In this selections there are no examples of hiatus or syneresis.


Spanish names of verses are determined by the number of syllables
they contain.  The most commonly used names are:

7 syllable verses           heptasílabo       heptasyllable
8 syllable verses           octosílabo        octosyllable
11 syllable verses          endecasílabo      hendecasyllable
14 syllable verses          alejandrino              Alexandrine

Verses of 4, 6, and 8 syllables are classified as "versos de arte
menor".  Verses of 7, 11, and 14 syllables are classified as
"versos de arte mayor".


     1.   Accent:

          When a verse is pronounced, accents occur at certain
regular intervals; they determine the rhythm of the
poem.  All verses have a required rhythmic accent on the
penultimate syllable; verses of five or more syllables have one
or more auxiliary accents.  Below are listed only those which
occur most often in our readings.       

          Heptasílabo: has an accent on the sixth
syllable and   at least one more on any syllable but the fifth
one.  (This rule may be broken, but only for poetic reasons) 

               ¡Ay, riguroso estado,
               ausencia fementida,
               que dividiendo el alma,
               puedes dejar la vida!

                         (Lope de Vega)

          Octasílabo:  has an accent on the seventh
syllable and at least one more on any syllable but the sixth one.

               Servía en Orán al Rey
               un español con dos lanzas,
               y con el alma y la vida
               a una gallarda africana.

                         (Luis de Góngora)

          Endecasílabo:  apart from the obligatory
accent on the tenth syllable, various distributions are possible: 
1,4,7;  2,6;  1,6;  4,6;  4,8;  4,6,8.  Note: accents may
generally not occur on syllables 5 and 9.

               El dulce lamentar de dos pastores,
               Salicio juntamente y Nemoroso,
               he de contar, sus quejas imitando; 

                         (Garcilaso de la Vega)

          Alejandrino:  verse of 14 syllables divided into two
hemistichs of 7 syllables each.  Each hemistich (hemistiquio)  
follows the rule for heptasílabos.

               "Señora", diz la vieja, "yo le veo a menudo;
               el cuerpo tiene alto, piernas largas, membrudo    
               la cabeza no chica, velloso, pescozudo,
               el cuello no muy alto, pelinegro, orejudo".
                         (Juan Ruiz)
     2.  Pause and Cesura.

     To read poetry:  pauses are required at the end of
strophes, the end of verses where there is a period, and when
other punctuation signs (comma, semicolon, etc.) indicate its
use.  In long verses there may be a pause between two hemistichs
(which are not always divided in the middle of the verse).  A
pause does not admit synaloepha.  The caesura is a brief pause
which allows synaloepha.  Sometimes caesura can be employed even
when a pause is indicated in order to regularize meter.  When
semantics or graphics do not indicate a pause at the end of the
line, the reader continues without pause to the next verse.  This
is called enjambment or "encabalgamiento".

               Mira que la dolencia
               de amor, que no se cura
               sino con la presencia y la figura.

                         (San Juan de la Cruz)

These verses are read:  "Mira que la dolencia de amor (pause) que
no se cura (pause) sino con la presencia y la figura (pause)"


     1.  Rhyme is of two types in Spanish:  Assonance and

          a.  "Consonance" (consonancia):  the last accented
               vowel of the verse and all vowels and
	       consonants that may follow it are the same in all
	       words rhymed.
                    Si de mi baja lira
                    tanto pudiese el son, que un momento
                    aplicase la ira
                    del animoso viento,
                    y la furia del mar y el movimiento.
                              (Garcilaso de la Vega)

               Here lines 1 and 3 are consonantally rhymed, as
               are lines 2, 4, and 5.  Note the use of capital
               letters to designate the longer verses and lower
               case letters for the shorter verses.  The stanza
               would be plotted as aBacC.

          b.  "Assonance (asonancia):  the last accented vowel of
               the verse, and all following vowels are the same 
               in all the words rhymed.  (The lesser-accented
               vowel of a dipthong is not taken into account;    
               thus, "patr(i)a rhymes with ja(u)la, as well as
               with mata, canta, and palma. 

                    ¿Quién hubiera tal ventura
                    sobre las aguas del mar
                    como hubo el infante Arnaldos
                    la mañana de San Juan?

               Verses 2 and 4 have assonant rhyme.

     2.   Interior rhyme (rima interior):  the use of a word in
          the interior of a verse that rhymes with the final word
          of the previous verse. 

               Este nuestro Severo pudo tanto
               con el suave canto y dulce lira,
               que, revueltos en ira y torbellino,
               en medio del camino se pararon...
                              (Garcilaso de la Vega)

     3.   Feminine rhyme ("rima femenina"):  that found in
          "versos llanos".

     4.   Masculine rhyme ("rima masculina"):  that found in
          "versos agudos".

     5.   Blank verse ("versos blancos o sueltos"):  metrical
          verses without rhyme, and sometimes without strophes.

               ¿Vistes alguna vez en la campaña
               ejército español, fiero y lozano,
               cuando la noche con sus alas negras
               esparce por el aire tenebroso
               silencio, sueño, miedo y sobresalto?

                              (Francisco de Aldana)

     6.   Free verse ("versos libres"):  they neither rhyme nor
          follow metrical rules (accents, number of syllables);
          they are guided only by cadence.  Ametric (non-metric)

               Gentes de las esquinas
               de pueblos y naciones que no están en la mapa
               Ese hombre está muerto
               y no lo sabe.
               Quiere asaltar la banca,
               robar nubes, estrellas, cometas de oro,
               comprar lo más difícil:
               el cielo.
               Y ese hombre está muerto.

                         (Rafael Alberti)


     1.  Spanish (octosyllabic forms)

               Romance:  ballad line; laisses of undetermined
          length in which the even-numbered verses rhyme in
          assonance.  Generally narrative in tone.

               Redondillas:  stanzas of four lines, rhyming in
          consonance in the pattern abba.

               Quintillas:  stanzas of five lines, rhyming in
          consonance in different patterns as follows: 
          (1) ababa; (2) abbab (3) abaab (4) aabab and 
          (5) aabba.
               Quintillas may occur in copla real when two types          
	       of stanzas are used in repeated fashion.  Most generally 
	       types 1 and 5.

               Décima:  stanzas of ten lines, rhyming in 
	         consonance, with an almost obligatory stop after the fourth
               verse.  abba:ac,cddc.  Notice that this looks like two
               quintillas except that the pattern for the first five
               lines is not one of the possible forms.  It is more 
               like two redondillas connected by two additional verses 
		   rhyming with the exterior verses of each.
     2.  Italianate lines (hendecasyllables)

               Versos sueltos:  no rhyme pattern except that
          there may be an occasional couplet rhyming in consonance.

               Tercetos:  Three line stanzas rhyming in consonance 
	    (ABA BCB CDC DED etc., or AAX BBX CCX etc., or
          AXA BXB CXC DXD, etc.)  The last four lines always
          rhyme YZYZ.  Used as letters (epistolary form) or in

               Pareados:  Couplets, rhyming in consonance (AA BB  
          CC DD etc.)

               Octava Real:  Stanzas of eight hendecasyllables,  
          rhyming ABABABCC.  Normal for epic poetry.

               Sonnet (soneto):  Fourteen line stanza composed of        
          two cuartetos (quartets) ABBA ABBA, plus two tercetos
          (tiercets) CDE CDE, or CDC DCD, etc.  There may
          occasionally occur a seventeen line form in which one
          of the final three lines is a shortened verse.

     3.   Italianate lines (Mixed heptasyllables and hendecasyl-

               Silva:  unlimited number of 7 and 11 syllable
          lines with varying rhyme schemes, but always in
          consonance.  There are four types:  (1) aAbBcCdDeE...;
          (2) aABbcC... (not all are couplets and the 7 and 11
          syllable verses are irregularly spaced); (3) All 11
          syllable lines (differs from pareados in that not all
          of the lines are rhymed even though more than 50% are); 
          (4) aABBccdDEd...  (all are couplets but the line
          length is irregularly 7 and 11 syllables). 

               Canción:  Seven and eleven syllable
	  lines mixed in a set pattern of line length and rhyme
	  scheme repeated for a number of stanzas.  Stanzas may
          have from 9 to 23 verses.  Most commonly used is a
	  thirteen line stanza.  Generally stanzas begin with the
	  pattern AbCAbCc....   The sixth verse is always 11 and
	  the seventh verse always 7 syllables.  The last verse of
 	  each stanza is always an hendecasyllable.  This is the
	  so-called Petrarchan canción.

               Liras:  A special form of canción.   Consonant           
	  rhyme for five lines (the so-called Lira de Fray Luis de León) 
	  or six lines.  aBabB or aBaBcC, abbacC, abABcC, etc.  The last        
	  line must always be hendecasyllabic.

     4.  Miscellaneous

               Endechas:  Stanzas of 6 or 7 syllable
          verses that rhyme in assonance.
               Seguidillas:  mixture of 7 and 5 syllable lines,
         assonant rhyme.

               Letrilla:  a Spanish verse (octosyllabic) form
          with a repeated estribillo.

               Villancico:  Octosyllabic verse form with
	  estribillo, usually on religious theme.

               Madrigal:  A short poem on a light topic, that
	  develops a single conceit, usually using mixed 7 and 11 syllable verses.

               Pie Quebrado:  Octosyllabic verses in which one or
          more lines of each stanza is a verso quebrado, that is, 
	    a verse that has been shortened, generally to four syllables.  The 
	    stanzas typically repeat the same pattern of rhyme and verse length.

Texto electrónico por Vern G. Williamsen y J T Abraham
Formateo adicional por Matthew D. Stroud

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Association for Hispanic Classical Theater, Inc.

Most recent update: 10 Jun 2002