Glose (or Glosa)

The glose originated in Spain, where it is known as the glosa. It has two parts, which are normally written by different authors. 

The first part - the texte or cabeza - consists of a few lines which set the theme for the entire poem. Typically this will be a stanza from a well-known poem or poet - although it is perfectly permissible to write your own texte.

The second part - the glose or glosa proper - is a gloss on, or explanation of, the texte. It takes the form of an ode, with one stanza per line of the texte. Each stanza in turn expands upon its corresponding line of texte, and ends with a repetition of it. 

An example will make this clearer.

Another blow for press freedom
The painful warrior famoused for fight
After a thousand victories once foiled
Is from the book of honour razèd quite
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled.

A thug, about him something of the night,
But our thug, who took up arms and stood firm,
Brave, strong and tall for what he thought was right.
A hero, though he’d blush to hear the term,
The painful warrior famoused for fight.

A realist, this craggy hunk; hard-boiled,
But never thought to find a single blot
On his once proud escutcheon.  Now it’s soiled
Beyond recall. His reputation’s shot,
After a thousand victories once foiled.

He rails against his fate, the sudden blight
That chills him. Life will never be the same.
The days drag by. He lies awake at night, 
Cold, haunted by the knowledge that his name
Is from the book of honour razèd quite.

His future, once so bright, has now been spoiled;
His past’s no longer what it used to be.
Admirers he once had have all recoiled,
Wiped tapes, burnt photos, pulped biography,
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled.

The texte here comes from Shakespeare's sonnet 25. For the glose, I chose to use 5-line stanzas rhyming ababa. 4-line or 8-line stanzas are more usual, but any kind of ode stanza is acceptable.  

Related forms

The rondeau redoublé will give you a distinct sense of déjà vu.


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© Bob Newman 2004. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 06/06/2004