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Poetry Guide: Cantiga de Amigo

The cantiga de amigo - literally, little songs of friendship - is a lyrical composition traditionally from Portuguese-Galician medieval poetry. The earliest examples that survive today come from the end of the 12th century.

Cantigas de amigo are found in the Colocci Brancuti Cancionero of Lisbon's National Library and in the Cancionero of the Vatican Library, both copied in Italy at the beginning of the 16th century. The prologue of the Colocci Brancuti Cancionero establishes four types of cantigas: of friendship, of love, of mockery, and of curses.

The cantigas de amigo have characterstics in common with kharjas; the other classes of cantigas (those of mockery and love) did not originate from the literature of the provincial troubadours, and generally either are from the point of view of a woman that waits for her lover or express the joy of living.

The most characteristic signs of the cantiga de amigo are the stylistic mechanisms of parallelism and leixaprén. The stanzas are connected two by two, making the verses of the second stanza become a small variant of the verses of the first. The parallelism can be of two types: perfect, if that last word of the verse is substituted with another synonym, or the repetition of the same words but in a different order that chages the rhyme; or imperfect, if the verses of the second stanza freely reproduce in sintactic structure the meaning of the verses of the first stanza. Leixaprén consists of giving back the verse of the previous stanza. The chorus that repeats at the end of each stanza is called the refrain.

Famous authors of cantigas de amigo included Martín Codax, Airas Nunes, Pero Meogo, and Joan Zorro.