El Estudiante de Salamanca y Otras Selecciones by José de Espronceda - HTML preview

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"La Légende de DonJuan," Paris, 1911. Also Farinelli, Giornale Storico, XXVII,and "Homenaje a Menéndez y Pelayo," Vol. I, p. 295; A.L.Stiefel, Jahresberichte für neuere deutsche Litteraturgeschichte,1898-1899, Vol. I, 7, pp. 74-79.




To enjoy the work of so musical an artist as Espronceda,the student must be able to read his verse in the original. Thiscannot be done without some knowledge of the rules whichgovern the writing of Spanish poetry. It therefore becomesnecessary to give some account of the elementary principlesof Spanish prosody. This is not the place for a completetreatment of the subject: only so much will be attempted asis necessary for the intelligent comprehension of our author'swritings. A knowledge of English prosody will hinder ratherthan help the student; for the Spanish poet obeys very differentlaws from those which govern the writer of English verse.

The two essentials of Spanish poetry are (1) a fixed numberof syllables in each verse (by verse we mean a single line ofpoetry); (2) a rhythmical arrangement of the syllables withinthe verse.

Rime and assonance are hardly less important, butare not strictly speaking essential.



When a verse is stressed on the final syllable, it is calleda verso agudo or masculine verse.

When a verse is stressed on the next to the last syllable, itis called a verso llano or feminine verse.

When a verse is stressed on the second from the last syllable,the antepenult, it is called a verso esdrújulo.

For the sake of convenience, the verso llano is consideredthe normal verse. Thus, in an eight-syllable verse of this typethe final stress always falls on the seventh syllable, in a six-syllable verse on the fifth syllable, etc., always one short of thelast. In the case of the verso agudo, where the final stress fallson the final syllable, a verse having actually seven syllableswould nevertheless be counted as having eight. One syllableis always added in counting the syllables of a verso agudo, and,contrariwise, one is always subtracted from the total numberof actual syllables in a verso esdrújulo. These three kinds ofverses are frequently used together in the same strophe ( copla or stanza) and held to be of equal length. Thus: Turbios sus ojos,

Sus graves párpados

Flojos caer.

Theoretically these are all five-syllable verses. The first is a verso llano, the normal verse. It alone has five syllables. Thesecond is a verso esdrújulo. It actually has six syllables, buttheoretically is held to have five. The third is a verso agudo.It actually has but four syllables, but in theory is designateda five-syllable verse. All three verses agree in having thefinal stress fall upon the fourth syllable.

It would be simpler if, following the French custom, nothingafter the final stress were counted; but Spaniards prefer toconsider normal the verse of average length. It follows fromthis definition that a monosyllabic verse is an impossibility inSpanish. Espronceda writes: Leve,



He is not here dropping from dissyllabic to monosyllabic verse,but the last verse too must be considered a line of two syllables.

Espronceda never uses a measure of more than twelvesyllables in the selections included in this book. Serious poetsnever attempt anything longer than a verse of sixteen syllables.


Spanish vowels are divided into two classes: the strongvowels, a, o, e, and the weak vowels, u, i.

According to theAcademy rules, followed by most grammarians, there can beno diphthongization of two strong vowels in the proper pronunciationof prose; only when a strong unites with a weakor two weaks unite can diphthongization take place. In verse,on the other hand, diphthongization of two strong vowels is notonly allowable but common. This would probably not be thecase if the same thing did not have considerable justification incolloquial practice. As a matter of fact we frequently hear ahora pronounced áora with diphthongization and shift of stress.

Of the three strong vowels, a is "dominant" over o and e; o is dominant over e; and any one of the three is dominant over u or i. A dominant vowel is one which has the power ofattracting to itself the stress which, except for diphthongization,would fall on the other vowel with which it unites.

The vowellosing the stress is called the "absorbed" vowel. This principle,which we find exemplified in the earliest poetic monumentsof the language, must be thoroughly understood by thestudent of modern Spanish verse.


Syneresis is the uniting of two or three vowels, each of whichis ordinarily possessed of full syllabic value, into a diphthongor a triphthong, thereby reducing the number of syllables in theword; h does not interfere with syneresis. Thus, aérea is normallya word of four syllables. In this verse it counts as three.

Mística y aérea dudosa visión (12)

(The numbers in parentheses indicate the syllables in the verse.Remember that the figure represents the theoretical number ofsyllables in the line, and indicates the actual number only in thecase of the verso llano. Furthermore, the figure has been determinedby a comparison with adjacent lines in the same stanzas,verses which offer no metrical difficulties.) So likewise in: Y en aérea fantástica danza (10)

In the following we have double syneresis, and the word hasbut two syllables: Aerea como dorada mariposa (11)

Examples of syneresis after the tonic stress:

Rechinan girando las férreas veletas (12)

Todos atropellándoos en montón (11)

Palpa en torno de sí, y el impio jura (11)

Impio, usually impío, is one of a number of words admittingof two stresses. Such are called words of double accentuation.The principle is different from that governing the stress-shiftexplained above. The word has its ordinary value in thefollowing:

«Bienvenida la luz,» dijo el impío (11)

Examples of syneresis before the tonic stress:

Se siente con sus lágrimas ahogar (11)

Tu pecho de roedor remordimiento (11)

¡Ay! El que la triste realidad palpó! (12)

Toda la sangre coagulada envía (11)

¿Quién en su propia sangre los ahogó? (11)

Tanto delirio a realizar alcanza (11)

Ahogar me siento en infernal tortura (11)

Examples of syneresis under stress:

El blanco ropaje que ondeante se ve (12)

Las piedras con las piedras se golpearon (11)

Ahora adelante?» Dijo, y en seguida (11)

In the first two examples there is no stress-shift. In the third,the stress travels from the o of Ahora to the initial a. In thefollowing example ahora has three syllables: Será más tarde que ahora (8)

The rule regarding syneresis under stress is that it is allowable,with or without resulting stressshift, except when the combinations éa, éo, óa, are involved. Espronceda violates the rulein this instance:

Veame en vuestros brazos y máteme luego (12)

This is a peculiarly violent and harsh syneresis. The stressshifts from the first e to the a, giving a pronunciation verydifferent from that of the usual véame. Such a syneresis ismore pardonable at the beginning of a verse than in any otherposition; but good modern poets strive to avoid such harshnesses.Espronceda sometimes makes río monosyllabic:

Los rios su curso natural reprimen (11)

In the poetry of the Middle Ages and Renaissance such pronunciationsas teniá for tenía are common.


Dieresis is the breaking up of vowel-combinations in sucha way as to form an additional syllable in the word. It is theopposite of syneresis. Dieresis never occurs in the case of thediphthongs ie and ue derived from Latin (e), and (o), in words like tierra, bueno, etc. and are regularly dissyllabic exceptafter c, g, and j. Examples: Y en su blanca luz süave (8)

En la playa un adüar (8)

En vez de desafïaros (8)

Compañero eterno su dolor crüel (12)

Grandïosa, satánica figura (11)

El carïado, lívido esqueleto (11)

La Luna en el mar rïela (8)

Cólera, impetuoso torbellino (11)

Horas de confianza y de delicias (11)

En cárdenos matices cambiaban (11)

Rüido de pasos de gente que viene (12)

The same word without dieresis:

Por las losas deslízase sin ruido (11)

In certain words, such as cruel, metrical custom preserves apronunciation in which the adjacent vowels have separate syllabicvalue. Traditional grammar, represented by the Academy,asserts that such is the correct pronunciation of these words tothis day; but the actual speech of the best speakers diphthongizesthese vowels, and their separation in poetry must rank asa dieresis. In printing poetry it is customary to print the markof dieresis on many words in which dieresis is regular as wellas on those in which it is exceptional.


Synalepha is the combining into one syllable of two or moreadjacent vowels or diphthongs of different words. It is thesame phenomenon as syneresis extended beyond the singleword. H does not prevent synalepha. The number ofsynalephas possible in a single verse is theoretically limitedonly by the number of syllables in that verse. A simpleinstance: De alguna arruinada iglesia (8)

The number of vowels entering into a synalepha is commonlytwo or three; rarely four, and, by a tour de force, even five:

Ni envidio a Eudoxia ni codicio a Eulalia (11)

Synalepha is not prevented by any mark of punctuation separatingthe two words nor by the caesural pause (see below).In dramatic verse a synalepha may even be divided betweentwo speakers. In the short lines of "El Mendigo," Esproncedamingles four- with five-syllable verses.

But as the five-syllableverses begin with vowels and the preceding four-syllable versesend with vowels, the former sound no longer than the rest. Invery short lines synalepha may occur between one verse andanother following it. See also line 1389 of "El Estudiantede Salamanca."

1. The simplest case is where both vowels entering intosynalepha occur in unstressed syllables: Informes, en que se escuchan (8)

When the two vowels coming together are identical, as here,they fuse into a single sound ( s'escuchan), with only a slightgain in the quantity of the vowel. Se here has no individualaccent in the stress-group. Where the vowels in synalepha aredifferent, each is sounded, but the stronger or more dominantis the one more distinctly heard:

Vagar, y aúllan los perros (8)

2. The second case is where the vowel or diphthong endingthe first word in the synalepha bears the stress, and the initialvowel or diphthong of the second word is unstressed. Exampleswhich do not involve stress-shift:

Del que mató en desafío (8)

Que no he seguido a una dama (8)

( He is without stress in the group.)


No tardará.




Quiero. (8)

In the following examples stress-shift occurs, because the unstressedvowel is dominant while the stressed vowel is absorbed.Such stress-shifts as these are sanctioned only when they donot coincide with a strong rhythmic stress (see below) in theverse. They are less offensive at the beginning than at the end:

Allí en la triste soledad se hallaron (11)

Tú el aroma en las flores exhalas (10)

Al punto aquí castigaré al medroso (11)

The following are disagreeably harsh:

Que estas torres llegué a ver (8)

¿De inciertos pesares por qué hacerla esclava (12)

3. The third case is where the second vowel or diphthongbears the stress, while the first is unstressed:

Teñida de ópalo y grana (8)

In cases like these we are dealing with a form of synalephawhich, if not true elision, approaches it closely. According toBenot, the pronunciation is not quite d'ópalo, but "there isan attempt at elision." In other words, the second vowel ordiphthong, if dominant, so predominates over the first thatit is scarcely audible. Under this case, too, there may arisestress-shift: Se hizo el bigote, requirió la espada (11)

This is a very bad verse. But such instances are rare inEspronceda and good modern poets. They are never sanctionedin connection with a strong rhythmic stress. In sucha case hiatus (see below) is favored as the lesser of two evils.

4. The fourth case is where each of the two vowels bearsthe stress:

Así, ante nosotros pasa en ilusión (12)

What happens here is that one of the two stresses becomessubordinate to the other, the stress being wholly assumed bythe more dominant of the two.

Where three or more vowels unite in a synalepha, two thingsmust be borne in mind: (1) Stressshift is not harsh to theSpanish ear, and is always permissible, if more than two vowelsare involved. This is Espronceda's justification in the following:

Si se murió, a lo hecho, pecho (8)

Necesito ahora dinero (8)

Su pecho ahogado (5)

(2) The vowels of three words may not combine if the middleword is y, e, he, o, or u. Examples:

¡Pues no ha hecho mal disparate! (8)

Que conduce a esta mansión (8)

But: Cuando en sueño | y en silencio (8)

Si tal vez suena | o está (8)

Alma fiera | e insolente (8)

There is one case in the text where he as middle word doesenter into synalepha, but this is merely the fusion of threeidentical vowels:

Yo me he echado el alma atrás (8)


Hiatus is the breaking up into two syllables of vowel combinationsin adjacent words capable of entering into synalepha.It is an extension to the word-group of dieresis, which appliesonly to a single word.

Many authorities on Spanish versification recognize as hiatusvarious cases which should not be so classified. In words like yo, yerro, hierro, huevo, etc., the first phonetic element is in eachcase a semi-vowel, and these semi-vowels have the value ofconsonants in the words cited. To classify the following asexamples of hiatus is to be phonetically unsound:

Perdida tengo | yo el alma (8)

Ponzoñoso lago de punzante | hielo (12)

Me he de quejar de este | yerro (8)

Levantóse en su cóncavo | hueco (10)

Cual témpanos de | hielo endurecidos (11)

Tierno quejido que en el alma | hiere (11)

In none of these cases could there possibly be synalepha.Consequently by definition there can be no hiatus.

Hiatus most frequently occurs to avoid the greater cacophonywhich would arise from stress-shift under case 3 of synalepha:

Era la hora | en que acaso (8)

Lack of hiatus would here produce a stress-shift resulting inan unharmonious stressing of two successive syllables.

Reposaba, y tumba | era (8)

The same principle applies here as in the above, except thatthe effect would be even worse, because the stress shift wouldcome under the rhythmic stress. (See below.) Su mejilla; es una | ola (8) (Ditto.)

¡Pobres flores de tu | alma! (8)

Probably to give the pronominal adjective greater emphasis.

Y huyó su | alma a la mansión dichosa (11)

Probably to avoid two successive stresses, though possibly theremay be dieresis in mansión.

Don Félix, a buena | hora (8)

Again to avoid stress-shift under the rhythmic stress.

¡El as! ¡el as! aquí está (8)

Y si Dios aquí os envia (8)

In these two examples instead of hiatus there is synalepha withstress-shift, but we have to do with case 2 of synalepha, not case 3.

Que un alma, una vida, | es (8)

Cuando | hacia él fatídica figura (11)

Y el otro ¡Dios santo! y el otro era | él! (12)

¡Villano! mas esto | es (8)

En cada | hijo a contemplar un rey (11)

In some instances hiatus seems to occur for no other reasonthan to preserve the verse-measure: Resonando cual lúgubre | eco (10)

Y palacios de | oro y de cristal (11)

¡Y tú feliz, que | hallaste en la muerte (11)

In general hiatus is most likely to occur before the principalrhythmic stress in a verse; that is, before the final stress.


In English poetry the foot, rather than the syllable, is theunit. The number of feet to a verse is fixed, but the numberof syllables varies. In Spanish poetry the number of syllablesto a verse is fixed, subject only to the laws of syllable-countinggiven above. But if in this respect the Spanish poet has lessfreedom than the English versifier, he has infinitely greaterliberty in the arrangement of his rhythms. The sing-songmonotony of regularly recurring beats is intolerable to Latinears. The greater flexibility of Spanish rhythm can best beshown by illustrations: The Assy'rian came do'wn like the wo'lf on the fo'ld,

And his co'horts were gle'aming in pu'rple and go'ld;

And the she'en of their spe'ars was like sta'rs on the se'a,

When the blu'e wave rolls ni'ghtly on de'ep Galile'e.

Having chosen to write this poem in the anapestic tetrameter,Byron never varies the rhythm except to substitute an occasionaliambic at the beginning of a verse:

And the're lay the ste'ed with his no'stril all wi'de.

Notice how much more freely Espronceda handles this meterin Spanish:

Su fo'rma galla'rda dibu'ja en las so'mbras

El bla'nco ropaj'e que ondea'nte se ve',

Y cua'l si pisa'ra mulli'das alfo'mbras,

Deslí'zase le've sin rui'do su pie'.

Tal vi'mos al ra'yo de la lu'na lle'na

Fugiti'va ve'la de le'jos cruza'r

Que ya' la' hinche en po'pa la bri'sa sere'na,

Que ya' la confu'nde la espu'ma del ma'r.

The first of these stanzas has the true Byronic swing. Butnote how freely the rhythm is handled in the second. Spanishrhythm is so flexible and free that little practical advantage isgained by counting feet. We distinguish only two sorts of verse-measure,the binary, where in general there is stress on onesyllable out of two—that is there are trochees (__' __) or iambics(__ __') in the verse, or the two intermingled—and second theternary measure, where one of a group of three syllables receivesthe stress. Such a verse is made up of dactyls (__' __ __),anapests (__ __ __'), or amphibrachs (__ __' __), or some combinationof these. Of course, a three-syllable foot is often foundin binary verse, and, vice versa a two-syllable foot in ternarymeasure. By binary verse we mean only a form of verse inwhich the twofold measure predominates, and by ternary onein which the threefold measure predominates. The extract lastquoted is an example of ternary verse. The following will serveas a specimen of the binary movement:

En de'rredo'r de u'na me'sa

Ha'sta se'is ho'mbres está'n,

Fi'ja la vi'sta' en los na'ipes,

Mie'ntras jue'gan a'l para'r;

Every word in Spanish has its individual word-accent: habí'a,habla'do. Now if we join these two words in a phrase, habí'a habla'do, we note that while each of the words still retainsits individual word-accent, hablado is more strongly stressedthan había. In addition to its word-accent hablado bears whatwe term a phrase-accent. In any line of verse some of theword-stresses are stronger than others, and these stronger stressesare termed rhythmic stresses. They correspond to the phrase-stressesof prose. The principal rhythmic stress is the laststress of the line. In general the rhythmic stress must coincidewith a word-stress. It always does except where stress-shiftcomes into play. We have already seen that a stress-shiftcoinciding with the rhythmic stress is intolerable, and hiatusis preferred. It is very unharmonious for two stresses to falltogether at the end of a verse:

Que estas torres llegué a ver (8)

This is a very bad verse, because a is dominant over é andbrings about stress-shift, and the two consecutive syllables a and ver are both stressed. The result is unharmonious.A syllable bearing stress and standing immediately beforethe final stress is called an obstructing syllable ( una sílabaobstruccionista). Every effort is made by a good poet to avoidsuch a cacophony. The above is a good example of one.I have emended llegué to llegue in the text.

A short verse can easily be spoken without pause, but aboveten syllables it becomes necessary for the reader to rest somewherewithin the line. The resting-place is called the caesuralpause.

The longer the verse, the greater its importance. Itdoes not prevent synalepha. The stress immediately beforethe caesura must be the second most important rhythmic stressof the verse.


The regularity of the beats in English verse is of itselfsufficient to indicate when a line of poetry is ended, eventhough there be no rime to mark that end. Hence blank versehas been highly developed by English poets, and many, likeMilton, have held it to be the noblest form of verse.

Blankverse is impossible in French, because French with its lack ofverbal stress has no other device than rime to mark the endof a verse. Without rime French blank verse would be indistinguishablefrom rhythmic prose. In Spanish the stressis not so heavy as in the Germanic languages, but, on theother hand, is much stronger than in French. Spanish blankverse is not unknown, but has never been cultivated withgreat success. It is evident that in this language too, lackingas it does regular rhythm in its versification, rime is muchmore necessary than in English.

However, an occasional versosuelto, or blank verse, intermingled with rimed ones, is verycommon.

Two words rime with one another when there is identity ofsound between the last stressed vowels and between any letterswhich may follow these vowels. Rime is masculine (in Spanish rima aguda) when the last syllables bear the stress: malcristal;or feminine when an unstressed vowel follows the stressedone (in Spanish rima llana): hermosuralocura. Inasmuch as b and v represent the same sound, they rime. The weak vowelof a diphthong is ignored for riming purposes; thus vuelo rimeswith cielo. Good poets avoid obvious or easy rimes such asthose yielded by flexional endings and suffixes. It is permissibleto rime two identically-spelled words if they are in fact differentwords in meaning: ven (they see) rimes with vén (come).

Assonance is the identity of sound of two or more stressedvowels and the final following vowels, if there are any. In caseconsonants stand after the stressed vowel they are disregarded.

Assonance is of two sorts: single assonance ( asonanteagudo), estánvapararjamás, etc.; and double assonance( asonante llano), cuentantierradejan or coronadagasabaña.In assonanced verse the assonanced wordsend the even lines. The odd are usually blank, though sometimesrimed. A voz aguda cannot assonate with a voz llana,but there is no objection to the introduction of voces esdrújulas into asonante llano. In this case only the stressed and thefinal vowels of the esdrújula are counted; for example, América assonances with crea. When diphthongs enter into assonance,the weak vowel is ignored: pleita assonances with pliega.

Assonance is not unknown in English, especially in popularor folk verse; but we generally regard it as a faulty rime.Thus in the British national anthem we read: Send him victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Long to reign over us,

God save the king!

"Over us" plainly assonates, rather than rimes, with "glorious,"but this is dangerously close to doggerel. Assonanceis unsuited to the genius of any language possessed of arich vowel-system.

This is evident to any one who has readArchbishop Trench's attempt to render Calderon's verse intoEnglish assonance.


I shall not attempt to list the innumerable verse-forms to befound in Spanish poetry, but shall only indicate the forms usedby Espronceda in the selections contained in this volume.Some of these are fixed and conventional, and others are ofhis own contrivance. Spanish uses the terms estrofa and copla to designate an arrangement of verses in a stanza. Copla must not be confused with English "couplet." Theseare general terms; most verse-forms are designated by specialnames. The following verse-forms are found in the selectionscontained in this book:


Lines 1-40. Ballad meter or verso de romance (8 syllables) withassonance in é- a.

Lines 41-48. Verso de romance with assonance in ó.

Lines 49-63. Irregular 3-syllable meter with assonance in ó occurringirregularly; lines 53 and 55

rime, and 59 and 61assonate in é-a.

Lines 64-75. Verso de romance with assonance in ó.

Lines 76-99. Quatrains or cuartetas of 12-syllable verse; rime-scheme abab (this arrangement of the rime is called rimacruzada); alternation of masculine and feminine rime.

Lines 100-139. Octavillas italianas (8-syllable verse); lines 2 and3, 6 and 7, 4 and 8 rime; lines 1

and 5 either assonate or areblank ( sueltos).