Copla (meter)

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The copla is a poetic form of four verses found in many Spanish popular songs as well as in Spanish language literature. There is a related musical genre of the same name. The form is also found widely in Latin America. The name derives from the Latin copula, ("link" or "union").

Coplas normally consist of four verses de arte minor (that is, of no more than eight syllables to a line) of four lines each, either of Spain's most characteristic popular meter, the romance (8- 8a 8- 8a), or of seguidilla (7- 5a 7- 5a) or redondilla (8a 8b 8b 8a).

Although most commonly considered a popular form, it has not been scorned by cultivated writers. Among those who have written coplas are Íñigo López de Mendoza, Marquis of Santillana, Rafael Alberti, Luis de Góngora, Antonio Machado, Jorge Manrique and Federico García Lorca. Manuel Machado wrote of coplas, using the form himself:

Spanish original Rough English translation
Hasta que el pueblo las canta, Until the people [or village] sings them
las coplas, coplas no son, coplas are not coplas,
y cuando las canta el pueblo and when the people sing them
ya nadie sabe el autor. By then, no one knows who wrote them.
Tal es la gloria, Guillén, Such is the glory, Guillén,
de los que escriben cantares: Of those who write songs:
oír decir a la gente To hear the people say
que no los ha escrito nadie. That no one wrote these.
Procura tú que tus coplas Try to make it that your songs
vayan al pueblo a parar, go among the people to stick around,
aunque dejen de ser tuyas although they cease to be yours
para ser de los demás. to belong to the others.
Que, al fundir el corazón Which, to melt the heart
en el alma popular, in the soul of the people,
lo que se pierde de nombre that which it loses of a name
se gana de eternidad. it gains of eternity.

The language of the copla is colloquial and direct, although there may also be double entendres, especially for comic or lascivious effect.