Article published in:Towards a Typology of Poetic Forms: From language to metrics and beyond
Edited by Jean-Louis Aroui and Andy Arleo
[Language Faculty and Beyond 2] 2009
► pp. 355–370
The metrics of Sephardic song
After briefly presenting the literary genre of Sephardic song (18th–20th centuries), we comment on its principal metrical characteristics, which concern syllabism, the stanza, and rhyme. The song is the purest, most characteristic and authentic production of Sephardic poetry. It generally takes the form of a poem of between 10 and 20 stanzas, though it may contain fewer, or over a hundred. The subject matter of a song reproduces the religious underpinnings of Jewish culture, as well as the historic and everyday experiences of the Jewish people. Some striking features of the meter of Sephardic songs are: the important presence of heterometry, the vitality of the dodecasyllable (a reinterpretation of the accentual verse of Juan de Mena, which in the 15th century fulfilled the functions later taken over by the Spanish hendecasyllable) and the vigour of the octosílabo (the French heptasyllable). With respect to the forms taken by stanzas, monorhymed schemes, the vitality of forms based on the profane zéjel and the creation of a scheme as characteristic as that of the Purim stanza are features that attract our attention. A final point of metrical form that merits commentary is rhyme. A remarkable number of rhymes follow neither rhyming nor assonance rules; on the other hand, they are comprehensible in terms of other laws. The aim of the presentation and of the accompanying examples is to situate these metrical forms in the history of Spanish verse: these are survivals of medieval forms. The explanations proposed, in the context of the history of Spanish metrics, lead us to conclude that this history is richer than previously thought and to critique the complete dependence on literary history and its aesthetic canons that has heretofore been the basis for constructing histories of metrics.
Published online: 30 September 2009