Thursday, April 15, 2010

Italian Poetry Again: The Barzelletta

Another Italian form, the barzelletta began in the fifteenth and sixteenth century with a group called the frottola composers. The form precedes the madrigal and likely descends from the ballata, a fourteenth-century poetic form. As the frottola became the barzelletta, the difference in the forms occurred when lessons began to be inserted into the form.

The barzelletta form isn’t a set form. To see the full argument on PoetryBase, go here: The frottala was a kind of carnival song with irregular meter and rhyme so that theme has carried over into the barzelletta. It can have lines of seven or eight, even up to twelve, syllable lines written as couplets, or can be in blank verse with pentameter or hexameter syllables. It can rhyme or not, be full of poetic device, internal rhyme, etc. A more formal version of barzelletta can have a set rhyme scheme with a ripresa (reprise) of abba, and a stanza of cdcdda or cdcddeea, although massive variation exists on this rhyme scheme. (Seems to be a poetic theme, doesn’t it?) The stanzas are usually two lines in length and continue as in the above rhyme scheme.

For an example of the barzelletta, I went to Type that four times fast. This is a simple barzelletta and the site says it should have “lines of even length and simple, unvarying rhyme scheme.” This suggestion comes from the online book Musical humanism and its legacy: essays in honor of Claude V. Palisca by Claude V. Palisca, Nancy Kovaleff Baker, and Barbara Russano Hanning. Find it at

Barzelletta – Author Unknown

L’amor donna ch’io te porto
Volentier voria scoprire
E’l mio affanno voira dire
Che per te sempre suporto
L’amor donna ch’io te porto
Volentier voria scoprire.

Non me fido a mandar messo
Per che temo esser gabato
S’io te passo per apresso
Tut e volti in altro lato.

The love, my lady, that I bear you
I would gladly disclose,
And my anguish I would tell
Which I always suffer because of you.
The love, my lady, that I bear you
I would gladly disclose.

I dare not send a messenger,
For I fear to be deceived.
If I pass close to you
You turn away.

So yeah, not real fun today. On the up side, I’m only spending one more day on Italian poetry and then we get on to a healthy mix of Spanish, Portuguese, French, and other forms; Dada poetry; some classic forms like the sonnet and sestina; and, maybe, if time permits, some focus on the poets themselves, focusing on their inspiration and motivation, their unique approach to poetry, and whatever other fun facts come up.