Glosa = poetic gloss

A Spanish form invented by court poets in the 14th and 15th centuries. An opening quatrain, called a “cabeza”, is chosen from another poet.
The glosa elaborates or “glosses” on the quatrain with four ten line stanzas, their concluding lines taken consecutively from the quatrain and their sixth and ninth lines rhyming with the borrowed tenth.



Cervantes: Don Quixote, Part II:


[dijo Don Lorenzo:]”...yo diré mi glosa, de la cual no espero premio alguno, que sólo por ejercitar el ingenio la he hecho.”

“Un amigo y discreto” respondió don Quijote  “era de parecer que no se había de cansar nadie en glosar versos; y la razón, decía él, era que jamás la glosa podía llegar al texto, y que muchas o las más veces iba la glosa fuera de la intención y propósito de lo que pedía lo que se glosaba; y más, que las leyes de la glosa eran demasiadamente estrechas: … … como vuestra merced debe de saber.”


 [said Don Lorenzo:] “… I will repeat my gloss, for which I do not expect any prize, having composed it merely as an exercise of ingenuity."

"A discerning friend of mine," said Don Quixote, "was of opinion that no one ought to waste labour in glossing verses; and the reason he gave was that the gloss can never come up to the text, and that often or most frequently it wanders away from the meaning and purpose aimed at in the glossed lines; and besides, that the laws of the gloss were too strict, … … as you no doubt know."

(Transl.: John Ormsby)



Cabeza (Macbeth I:1):

When shall we three meet again

In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

When the hurlyburly's done,

When the battle's lost and won.



By Catrin Achrya



“It’s over,”  speaks the stony throat,

Icy eyes and cloak of night,

Darkness with no antidote,

Flame too distant, too remote

His cold soul to reignite.

Long years gone since she was slain

In one chaos swirl and float;

New and raw the old friend’s plight...

He must know, yet asks in vain:

“When shall we three meet again?”


“It’s over,”  states the mangled mind,

Disciplined to always shun

Tender thoughts, and keep confined

Old dreams of a silver hind

To sad company of one.

Staunchly bearing constant pain,

To an adverse fate resigned,

Who else, to protect her son,

Steadfast, wakeful would remain

In thunder, lightning, or in rain?


“It’s over,”  sounds a hopeful sigh:

Troubles may come to an end,

Storms may clear a starry sky

If he finds the strength whereby

Persistently to defend

The promise of a rising sun.

His deep courage, rough and wry,

Will have fought the final stand,

Spent all powers, sparing none,

When the hurlyburly's done.


“It’s over,” calm and peaceful rest

Shall bring freedom from the pain,

Terminate the weary quest,

End the struggle, and contest

Old suspicion and disdain.

Hope’s recurring antiphon

Rises clear and unsuppressed

That the three may meet again

When a new day has begun,

When the battle's lost and won.