Villancico

Villancico
The villancico hails from Spain, and is a (largely forgotten) forerunner of the villanelle. As with the villanelle, whole lines are repeated. In fact, whole couplets are repeated. There are three stanzas, and last two lines of the first and second stanzas are both repeated at the end of the third. Here’s an example, in the best possibletaste:
Ordure of the British Empire

Most frequent of our complaints
Is ignorance in the young.
Oftentimes my lady faints
When plain folk misname their dung,
But speak of otters’ spraints
And we’ll know you are sound.

On such small orthodoxies
Aristocracy is based.
Don’t know what “poo of ox” is?
You’re so common; you’ve no taste!
Waggyings of foxes –
That’s where breeding is found.

Badger’s werdrobe on the ground;
Hare’s crotels scattered around;
Wild boar’s fiants – Ha! You frowned!
You’re not gentry, I’ll be bound!
But speak of otters’ spraints
And we’ll know you are sound.
Waggyings of foxes –
That’s where breeding is found.

The rhyming scheme is quite demanding, with 6 of the 8 lines of the third stanza required to rhyme with one another. In the only other example I have seen, there is even more rhyming (so that the lines here ending in “based” and “taste” ought to rhyme with “complaints”), but I flashed my artistic licence and claimed exemption from that requirement. 7-syllable lines seem to be standard, except in the two refrains, which both use 6-syllable lines.
I haven’t seen a formal description of the villancico anywhere. Researching these obscure forms can be a frustrating business. According to various sources, the villancico is the Spanish equivalent of a madrigal, or of a carol, or primarily a musical form without lyrics. It is certainly not a verse form anyone is prepared to give an exact description of. (Except perhaps in Spanish – a language I don’t speak.) Any information would be gratefully received.
In this example, I am taking the mickey out of the vocabulary of field sports. (Not for the first time. I also have a poem called Table Manners – more popularly known as Frushing the Chub – which uses a selection of Elizabethan carving terms.) Back in the days of Empire, there was a specific word for virtually every attribute or behaviour of any animal species of interest to the aristocracy. The best known of these are probably the nouns of assemblage – murder of crows, exaltation of larks, murmurationof starlings, dopping of sheldrake, etc. Harmless pieces of trivia for pub quizzes nowadays, but once these were potent shibboleths – anyone who didn’t know the proper word for a hare’s droppings (see above) or the sexual antics of foxes (“clickitting”) was plainly not “one of us”. An authoritative book on the subject was written byEdward, Duke of York, first cousin to Henry IV.    

Pasted from http://www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/villancico.htm
My thanks to Bob Newman for his years of work on the wonderful Volecentral resource.

Specifications restated:

A stanzaic poem of 20 lines, 2 sestets plus and octet
Syllabic: The first four lines of each stanza are 7 syllable, the remainder 6 syllables
Rhymed: ababAC1 dedeDC2 ccccAC1DC2.
Refrains indicated by the Capital letters

My example

Let Us Prey  (Villancico)

A gift must have some appeal
before the intent can count.
Man can’t eat a godly spiel –
so take that into account.
What you give should be real,
It should fulfill a need.

An offer of warm French fries,
or a tattered coat to wear
may mean more to homeless guys
than assurance that God cares.
if your gift satisfies
Then you’ve done a good deed.

Gifts with strings attached are fraud
they’re for you – and that is flawed.
Such giving I can’t applaud;
even in the name of God.
What you give should be real,
It should fulfill a need.
if your gift satisfies
Then you’ve done a good deed.

© Lawrencealot – October 31, 2014

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Villancico

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