Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Italian Poetry Continues: The Madrigal

A madrigal is close to a canzone. The form originated in the Renaissance and early Baroque periods (really sound cool now, don’t I? Somehow throwing the word ‘Baroque’ around adds professor-ism, so cool), and started as secular form, set to music. The music was written to underline the sentiment behind each line of text in the poem. The madrigal took on various aspects of other types of poems, and one type of madrigal eventually developed into the aria and into the opera. or (If I’m lying, blame Wikipedia.) Love is usually the theme or topic of a madrigal.

So nuts and bolts of the form. Lines consists of seven or eight syllables and come in sets of triplets, three line stanzas. These triplet stanzas usually run with two or three per poem, followed by one or two rhyming couplets. Here’s a sample rhyme schematic: aba bcb cdc dd ee, though the triplets have no set rhyme scheme.

Apparently, the best example of the form is poet William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585–1649). Here is one of his madrigals:

Madrigal: My Thoughts Hold Mortal Strife
William Drummond (of Hawthornden)

My thoughts hold mortal strife,
I do detest my life,
And with lamenting cries,
Peace to my soul to bring,
Oft calls that prince which here doth monarchize;
But he, grim-grinning king,
Who caitiffs scorns and doth the blest surprise,
Late having deck'd with beauty's rose his tomb,
Disdains to crop a weed, and will not come.

Curious about what a madrigal sounds like?