Endecha Poetry Form: Capture Grief’s Grace

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Here’s what the Endecha poetry form is:

An endecha is a type of Spanish dirge or song of lament originating from the 16th century.

The form relies on rhymed quatrains, usually with an uneven structure centered on lines with seven and eleven syllables, though a variant does exist that uses isosyllabic six-syllable lines instead.

So if you want to learn all about the Endecha poetry types, then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s jump right in!

Endecha Poem Type (Simply Explained & Examples)

Forms of Poetry: Endecha

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The endecha is a 16th century Spanish verse form that was primarily used for dirges or other sad songs.

As you might expect of a musical form, the endecha has specific syllable counts for each line and expects the use of end rhyme.

It consists entirely of quatrains.

The word endecha can be translated as dirge, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the form follows suit.

These songs/poems will always invariably contain somber subject matter, most commonly in the form of songs honoring the dead.

Basic Properties of the Endecha

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Rhyme StructureStrict, but often uses consonant rhymes
Origin16th century Spain
PopularityMostly restricted to Spanish use
ThemeSongs of lament; especially dirges

How Is an Endecha Structured?

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The endecha is a quatrain-based form that can go on for any number of quatrains, but in practice it generally will have a reasonable stopping point since the form was intended for song.

Each verse consists of three seven-syllable lines and one final eleven-syllable line.

This makes each verse of the endecha bottom-heavy, but notably makes the stanza exactly 32 syllables.

Having the number of beats in each total verse be divisible by eight can be useful for timing in some respects, even if the end rhymes may seem slightly disjointed due to the asymmetry.

The only rhymes are on the second and fourth lines, giving the endecha the relatively common abcb rhyme scheme.

This simple rhyme scheme has been used in both music and poetry for as long as anyone can remember, so it’s not especially surprising to see it here.

The unrhymed lines make it easy to line up the next rhyme without dragging down the content of the piece.

Note that it’s not uncommon for an endecha to use consonance instead of true rhyme, though both are acceptable.

The theme of the poem is important, though.

An endecha is expected to be sorrowful.

Dirges, poems lamenting the dead, are particularly common.

Edward Hirsch’s A Poet’s Glossary offers a slight twist on the Endecha.

He refers to an alternative structure that he calls the “endecha real” (royal lament).

After looking through some Spanish sources, it looks like this variant form would typically be an isosyllabic poem/song with isosyllabic six-syllable lines, though the form split between seven and eleven syllables does appear to be more common.

Example of an Endecha

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The Barmaid’s Passing

Her eyes were the deepest blue
that any good man has seen,
yet now I lay here wailing
because they will never wink at me again.

Her voice stroked like a soft song
‘gainst the canyons of the ear.
But now we can but lament
for her music. It lingers no longer here.

She was the moon and the stars
and everything grand beyond.
We’ll remember her always,
but our night sky is already dead and gone.

Structurally speaking, an endecha is fairly simple.

While this one uses hard stops after every second line, that’s not a requirement and was only a stylistic choice.

Take note of the different types of rhyme used.

The first verse only uses a consonant rhyme between “seen” and “again.”

The second verse is a true rhyme. (“Ear” and “here.”)

The third is a slant rhyme between “beyond” and “gone,” which also includes consonance by virtue of the ‘n’ sound.

How you structure your own rhymes is up to you, but I wanted to showcase the options you have when working with the form.

It would be a good idea to get a feel for which of these styles of rhyme you like best, or to decide whether or not you’re comfortable using a mix of all of them.

Some poets may feel that consonant rhymes suit a somber tone better, while others may argue that every rhyme should strive to be a true rhyme if possible.

Tastes vary and it’s okay to have your own definitive preference.

Tips for Writing an Endecha

endecha tips

Always remember that endecha literally translates to dirge or lament.

While the structural elements are important, the first thing to recognize here is that this poem form is not flexible on what topics are allowed.

If you write a poem with the exact same structure about how cute your dog is, that’s not an endecha.

Aside from that note, the form should feel fairly comfortable for poets of most levels.

It may feel a little awkward writing with uneven and asymmetrical line lengths at first if you’re not accustomed to it, but that’s a simple matter of adjusting the number of syllables while editing.

With a little practice, you’ll get used to it, but even when first starting out you can just write the lines as normal and then tweak them until they’re at the appropriate lengths.

The rhyme scheme is about as simple as rhyme schemes can be, all things considered.

You need only concern yourself with a single pair of end rhymes on each verse, and there’s ample space between them to figure out how you’re going to make it work.

I do challenge anyone trying an endecha to experiment with only using consonant rhyme instead of true rhyme.

This is a technique that doesn’t come up often in Western poetry, so it’s good practice.

Additionally, true rhymes can detract from the intended sadness of the form if they come off as being too simple or easy.

Be careful of your word choices.

Connotation is extremely important when writing dirges, especially, since it can reveal a lot about the speaker’s feelings toward the deceased.

Connotation refers to the emotional implication of a word and goes beyond the rank-and-file definition you find in a dictionary.

One of the most extreme examples of connotation is the difference between “interested” and “nosy.”

Technically speaking, they mean the same thing.

But I think most people are unlikely to describe someone they care about as “nosy” unless they’re upset.

While most connotations aren’t that in-your-face positive or negative, it is important to keep an eye out for the emotional implications of your words when writing impactful poems.

Poet’s Note


Calling this one a poem form may be somewhat debatable since it’s really more of a song form, but since the verse structure is predominantly ruled by syllable counts and rhyme scheme it definitely felt like it belongs in a compendium of poem forms.

Regardless, do keep in mind that this form was usually set to music in its heyday.

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