Mar 18, 2010

Balassi Stanza

The Balassi Stanza is named after the Hungarian Balint Balassi (1554-1594), who is regarded as the first great lyricist of the Hungarian language. He was born into an aristocratic Protestant family but converted to Catholicism late in life. He wrote poems about religion, and fighting the Turks, and his love for a lady named Anna Losonczy, who he called Julia.

The first striking feature of Balassi’s poetry is the new use of rhymes. Poets before him and even his contemporaries used only either suffix rhymes (ragrím) i.e. using the same grammatical ending for both nouns and verbs, or simply repeating the very same noun or verb, often through the whole four lines of the stanza, thus creating a monotonous effect. These types of rhymes were suitable for poems which were to be sung, as the melody greatly improved the effect. Balassi successfully employed pure rhymes, sometimes with striking results.

His conscientious effort to improve the rhyme-schemes of his poetry resulted in the invention of what we today call the Balassi stanza, consisting of nine lines with the rhyme-scheme AADBBDCCD and a syllable count of 667667667.

x x x x x A
x x x x x A
x x x x x x D
x x x x x B
x x x x x B
x x x x x x D
x x x x x C
x x x x x C
x x x x x x D

My example is a little on the short side, but I think there's enough of it to give you the general idea of what the Balassi Stanza looks like:


You stare into the past,
Clutch each memory fast
Until your spirit’s shattered.
The rift between us grows
But this is what you chose;
I wonder if I mattered.
Lost, forgotten, dying;
No use in denying
Your promises lay scattered.

I can’t believe it ends
With us no longer friends,
Our history now forgot.
Your word is writ in tears
That vanish with the years.
Your soul is a tangled knot.
Some things are best left done
I fear that this is one;
See what your lying has bought.


Jamie D. said...

Interesting, Carol. It's kind of stilted, isn't it. I'm not sure if I like it or not, but I'd be willing to read more...

C R Ward said...

To be honest, I don't know how much of the stiltedness was the form and how much of it was just me. :-)