Letrilla – What is Letrilla, Types of Letrilla, Characteristics, How to write a Letrilla


What is the letrilla?

It is a type of poetic composition, so it is part of the list of subgenres of the lyric genre of literature, however it is one of the least known nowadays, due to the reduction of compositions produced with its characteristics in this type. It develops from the XVI century and will achieve a great evolution in the literary production with satirical and burlesque dyes.

Its highest point of development is reached during the Golden Age with important literary references of the time, among them Francisco de Quevedo, Luis de Góngora, among others.

Meaning of letrilla

The term letrilla is divided and comes from the noun -letra- together with the feminine suffix -illa-, which refers to a diminutive value. Thus, its final concept will refer to a type of poetic composition written in short verses that, in some cases, due to its number of syllables, will be accompanied by music in the form of a song.

Definition of letrilla

The letrilla is a poetic composition of short length and belonging to the lyric subgenre that focuses on the repetition of a thought that may appear in one or more verses. It has a particularly light satirical aspect and is composed from hexasyllables and octosyllables. This verse composition is usually set to music.

The letrilla is also considered as a satirical or amorous poetic composition divided into stanzas in which it ends with an idea that is frequently repeated and expressed with brevity.

Origin of the letrilla

The birth of the letrilla is granted in the 16th century, which was the period in which it was able to develop and become known, beginning with the incorporation of themes that often bordered on satire and burlesque, which maintained a light tone and soon began to touch on themes of lyric poetry and religion.

Characteristics of a letrilla

These are the key points of the letrilla that allow it to be distinguished from other lyric compositions of the genre:

Subject of the letrilla

Although in its beginnings the letrilla adopts themes related to satire and mockery, little by little its use evolved and it incorporated another series of themes in its compositions. Thus, it soon began to include lyrical, religious and even love-related compositions.


The letrilla is subject to a relatively defined structure where it combines both hexasyllabic and octosyllabic verses, although it allows the writer or poet, other possibilities of composition.

Variety of fields

Due to the evolution of the letrilla, it will be adopted by different figures and environments of the time, where it will no longer only have satirical themes, but will include love and one of those that will allow it to maintain itself: religion. These will be written by important personalities of the time that will even be accompanied with musical sounds and sung.

Parts of the letrilla

The structure of the letrilla, although brief, is built from verses that can combine both hexasyllables and octosyllables in their writing. For the initial stage, it begins with a stanza that functions as a refrain and ends each stanza with one or two verses that will be repeated in a rhyme according to the preceding one. The letrilla is divided into symmetrical stanzas.

As for the metric of the letrilla, its stanzas can be redondillas with the number of syllables indicated and some few use quintillas or five double octosyllabic verses. As for the rhyme used in the letrilla, it can be either consonant or assonant, using the verse according to the established syllables.

What is the letrilla

Types of letrilla

As we mentioned, with the passage of time the letrilla was experiencing changes mainly around the theme that is beginning to incorporate, so that they were creating the following types of letrilla:

Letrilla satirical

His compositions are impregnated with a tinge of sharp criticism in relation to the social situation, the concerns of the time, the attitude of a person, etc.. The satirical letrilla also includes the burlesque in its productions.

Lyrical Letrilla

This type of compositions will be characterized by the inclusion of themes that often border on the expression of the author’s feelings and emotions of deep character that are exposed in the production before the public.

Religious Letrillas

And finally this type of letrillas will be written by important figures belonging to the religious sphere where the themes will be specifically related to biblical passages, but also to feasts, celebrations and other religious practices of great importance for the religious community.

How to write a letrilla?

To write a letrilla it is necessary to take into account the following:

Define the theme

Remember that due to the variety of use with which the letrilla begins to develop, it starts to incorporate different themes and types of content, so it will be necessary, first, to define the theme we want to focus on. We can talk about anything from social issues as satire, to religious or love themes. Define the topic you like the most to start writing.

Make a list of ideas

Also known as the famous brainstorming, you need to make a list of aspects that you can take into account to include in the composition of the lyric. Although this is an optional step, you can consider it to avoid that any idea you want to include is left out of the literary production.

Take care of the structure

Remember that although the length is free, it should not be too long, so that it remains only in a series of stanzas with an initial one that gives entry and in which, in addition, the repetition of the final lines is key to distinguish it from other types of poetic compositions.

Remain attentive so as not to fall outside the parameters of this type of lyric subgenre when you are writing.

Start writing 

It’s time to get down to work and start writing the lyric. Keep in mind the syllable count to maintain the structure, this is extremely important since a miscalculated word can break the outline of the verse. Look for words that can accommodate this.

Check the composition

Once you have finished and made several drafts, it is time to check the sense of the composition, the theme and the structure it should have to be completely finished. Check if there are ideas you would like to correct or change.

Remember that for the writing of letrillas, as well as any other type of composition, it is key to read references and works already made of this type to have closer starting points, consider other options of composition and ways you could take to give your own touch to the letrilla you are writing.

Most important authors and works

One of the most important authors of the satirical letrilla with his work “Es amarga la verdad” or “Poderoso caballero es Don Dinero”, is Francisco Quevedo, there are also other works such as “Ándeme yo caliente y ríase la gente” by Luis Góngora, “Letrillas satíricas imitando a los dos anteriores” by Cadalso. In the religious letrillas we find figures such as Santa Teresa de Jesús who wrote “Nada de turbe”, Lope de Vega with “Los quince misterios del Rosario” and Gerardo Diego with “La virgen María esperando la Navidad”.

Example of the Letrilla

The following is a fragment of one of the letrillas written by Luis de Góngora:

Learn, Flores, in me

what goes from yesterday to today,

that yesterday I was a marvel,

and today I am not yet my shadow.

Yesterday the dawn gave me a cradle,

the night gave me a coffin;

I would die without light

if the moon did not lend it to me:

For none of you

ceases to end like this,

learn, Flowers, in me

what goes from yesterday to today,

for yesterday I was a marvel,

and today I am not yet my shadow.

Sweet consolation the carnation

is to my brief age,

for he who gave me one day,

two hardly gave it to him:

ephemerals of the orchard,

I am crimson, he is crimson.

Learn, Flowers, in me

what goes from yesterday to today,

that yesterday I was a wonder,

and today I am not yet my shadow.

To learn more about lyrical subgenres visit our literary genres section, as well as the Literature section, where you will find all the information you need to learn more about this type of art.