Romances and letrillas constitute two important forms of popular Spanish poetry. The romance is customarily written in octosyllabic lines (although other metric forms are sometimes used). The rhyme is assonantic, or imperfect, meaning that after the tonic vowel, all other vowels are equal. This poetic mode has no stanzas, and only the even lines rhyme, usually with one assonance carried throughout the entire poem. The letrillas are generally written in octosyllabic lines and grouped in stanzas of either four, eight, or ten lines. The rhyme is consonantic, or perfect, meaning that all sounds after the tonic vowel are identical. The letrilla usually has a refrain. Both the romances and the letrillas were originally intended to be sung.
It would be a mistake to consider the romances and letrillas written by Luis de Góngora y Argote as “popular” or “easy” poems. His first dated poem (1580) is a romance; his last, dated 1626, is also a romance. This poetic form was basic to Góngora’s work. Although the themes of the romances vary, they generally follow traditional Spanish subjects. Góngora wrote amatory, mythological, satirical, religious, and Moorish romances. Within the Moorish convention, some of his best romances correspond to the theme of the cautivo, the Christian prisoner of the Moors, who dreams of his homeland. It is important to remember that this theme is also present in many other authors. For example, having once been a cautivo in Africa, Miguel...
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