Did you know I’m a poet? Perhaps you already did know it, but that makes no difference to the discussion at hand. But if you do know that I write poetry, you probably also are aware that I am a multilingual person, and were you to put two and two together, you might come to the reasonable conclusion that I write poetry in several languages.
Well, only just recently have I begun to branch out from my native tongue in terms of writing verse. I am currently engaged in tediously reading the Medieval Greek epic Digenes Acritas, and I have written a few Greek poems adhering to the same form (fifteen-syllable blank verse). I haven’t tried rhyming in Greek yet, but I’ll get to that eventually.
But just this evening I decided to try my hand at Spanish poetry. Although I can get by fairly well speaking it, I hadn’t really encountered any poetry until I read some of the sonnets at the beginning of Don Quixote. At first I pondered these awhile, and for the life of me, the only form I found was rhyme. I consider such meterless rhyme very distasteful in English, but I withheld judgment. Little did I know that the Romance languages have quite a different type of meter!
Upon researching the ultimate source of information, I discovered that the most popular meter for the Romance languages’ sonnets was called hendecasyllabic, which, as I presumed, means that the lines are usually composed of eleven syllables (you never know when you might need those Greek roots!). However, the important thing is not the number of syllables, but the stress—this is what makes it meter, as opposed to the fifteen-syllable verses in medieval Greek poetry. With hendecasyllabic lines, stress must fall on the tenth syllable, and then one more syllable may be added after the stressed one if desired. This arrangement seems to fit Spanish quite well with its many multisyllabic words—much better than our iambic system would.
So anyway, I thought I’d share with you this interesting information. Let somebody else read Whitman–behold the joys of structured poetry!