Rimas Dissolutas (Troubadouric song)

I was delighted to discover recently that this was recognised - in some quarters, anyway - as a standard form, and had a name. In rimas dissolutas, the stanzas are all similar, and all use the same rhymes. The first lines all rhyme with each other, the second lines all rhyme with each other, and so on. These are all external rhymes; there are no rhymes between lines in the same stanza. 

The blessed Malcovati calls this form the troubadouric song, giving it as the only member of a category of open forms he calls coblas unissonantis (a Provençal term which he assures us is in common use). It is normal, he tells us, for there to be an envoi, shorter than the other stanzas but rhyming with the latter part of them.

Here's an example, in which I unleashed the form on the nine Muses:

Calliope, presiding as chief Muse
Inspires, when she gets up a head of steam,
To epic poetry and eloquence,
The lifeblood – she’d claim - of the universe.

Her sister Clio endlessly reviews
The whorls and eddies in time’s muddy stream.
From such historical intelligence
Her poets conjure up heroic verse.

For versifiers who enjoy their booze
Euterpe sets a Dionysiac theme.
She favours odes to pleasure so intense
That all who seek it must rehearse, rehearse…

While those who crave a talent to amuse
Aspire to bat for graceful Thalia’s team.
Her shepherd’s crook shows rustic influence
And to a belly laugh she’s not averse.

Melpomene’s for those who’ve got the blues,
Convinced things are more tragic than they seem.
Her poets write of death, impermanence,
How bad life is, and how it will get worse.

Terpsichore puts on her dancing shoes
And hoofs with style - her Charleston is a scream!
Her talent on the lyre is so immense
She’ll make you want to dance – but won’t coerce.

Erato’s bards, without the least excuse,
Will pen erotic lines that bring a gleam
To many jaded eyes, their audience
Inspired to pleasures fleshly and diverse.

Eighth, Polyhymnia, the sister whose
Invention of the lyre worked like a dream,
Inspiring song - a happy consequence,
For faced with  harmony, discords disperse.

Rare wordsmiths who know how to mend a fuse
Write stanzas that make wise Urania beam,
For scientific knowledge and good sense
Do not harm poetry – quite the reverse!

With nine to choose from, there is no excuse,
So pick the goddess whom you most esteem.
Write her a poem to show reverence -
An effort which your Muse will reimburse.

Yes, perhaps ten stanzas of that are too many. But there's no limit on the number of stanzas, or on the number of lines per stanza, and no restriction on the metre - as long as all the stanzas are similar. 

To satisfy Dr Malcovati, we could add an envoi:

Which one's your choice? Come, don't sit on the fence!
For if you do, you'll suffer all Nine's curse.


Now that you know how to write a troubadouric song, you may wish to organise a tenson or tenzon, which my dictionary defines as "a competition in verse between two troubadours before a court of love". (If you do, please let me know how it goes.)

Notable Rimas Dissolutas

Sylvia Plath's Black Rook in Rainy Weather is in this form - with imperfect rhymes, and a bit of artistic irregularity at the end.

I spotted an example of something similar while listening to the song What I am, from the album Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. Part of verse 1 goes:

Is the talk on a cereal box;
Is the smile on a dog.

The corresponding lines of verse 2 are:

Is a walk on slippery rocks;
Is a light in the fog.

Throw me in the shallow water before I get too deep...

Related forms

A couple of the non-standard forms on this site could be seen as variations on the rimas dissolutas idea; these are domino rhyme and the virelai post-moderne.

Back to Verse Forms home page. 

© Bob Newman 2005, 2006, 2007. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 23/01/2007