At page 165 of the book Los trovadores. Historia literaria y textos by Martín de Riquer one finds the text of the cansó No sap chantar qui so non di (262, 3) by the troubadour Jaufré Rudel:

No sap chantar qui so non di,
ni vers trobar qui motz no fa,
ni conois de rima co·s va
si razo non enten en si.
Mas lo mieus chans comens'aissi,
com pluz l'auziretz, mais valra, a, a.

Nuils hom no·s meravill de mi
s'ieu am so que ja no·m veira,
que·l cor joi d'autr'amor non ha
mas de cela qu'ieu anc no vi,
ni per nuill joi aitan no ri,
e no sai quals bes m'en venra, a, a.

Colps de joi me fer, que m'ausi,
et ponha d'amor que·m sostra
la carn don lo cors magrira;
et anc mais tan greu no·m feri,
ni per nuill colp tan no langui,
quar no cove ni no s'esca, a, a.

Anc tan suau no m'adurmi
mos esperitz tost no fos la,
ni tan d'ira non ac de sa
mos cors ades no fos aqui;
e quan mi resveill al mati
totz mos bos sabers mi desva, a, a.

Ben sai c'anc de lei no·m jauzi,
ni ja de mi no·s jauzira,
ni per son amic no·m tenra
ni coven no·m fara de si;
anc no·m dis ver ni no·m menti
e no sai si ja s'o fara, a, a.

Bos es lo vers, qu'anc no·i falhi,
e tot so que·i es ben esta;
e sel que de mi l'apenra
gart se no·l franha ni·l pessi;
car si l'auran en Caersi
en Bertrans e·l coms en Tolza, a, a.

Bos es lo vers, e faran hi
calque re don hom chantara, a, a.

My question is about these "a, a" which appear at the end of every cobla. According to the book, all verses are octosyllables, so this "a, a" must be part of the last syllable in the last verse of the stanza. But why has the troubadour put these "a, a" at the end of each stanza? This is even maintained in the Spanish translation given in the book. For instance, the translation of the tornada is

Bueno es el verso, y de él harán algo con lo que se cantará, a, a.

Is some kind of indication for the jongleur who will sing the cansó, perhaps that the last syllable of the stanza should be longer?

In fact, in Riquer's book there is a footnote which says

a, a. Hay que ver aquí un fenómeno musical parecido a lo que ocurría en el canto litúrgico (principalmente en las secuencias) cuando se repetía el neuma sólo de la vocal final de un grupo de versos a manera de refranh, o estribillo (cfr. H. Anglès, La música a Catalunya fins al segle XIII, pág. 233 ).

But I found this quite difficult to understand. My attempt of translation is:

a, a. One must see here a musical phenomenon similar to what occurred in liturgical chant (mainly in sequences) when the neume of only the final vowel of a group of verses was repeated as a refranh or refrain (cf. H. Anglès, La música a Catalunya fins al segle XIII, page 233).

  • @Randal'Thor: Maybe we could have a tag for minor Romance languages — Catalan, Asturian, Occitan, Provençal, Galician, Romansh, and so forth.
    – Peter Shor
    Sep 3, 2023 at 14:16
  • 1
    I know nothing of Occitan, but it looks to me like one of those groups of nonsense syllables that were often added to lines of songs - 'fa la la', 'oh oh' and the like. Sep 4, 2023 at 8:27
  • @KateBunting: not only "were often" but still are often added to lines of songs. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) by John Elton comes immediately to mind (Beyond the yellow brick road, ah, ah), but there are undoubtedly many even more recent examples.
    – Peter Shor
    Sep 4, 2023 at 11:19
  • @KateBunting: These cannot be extra syllables: according to the book, all verses are octosyllables.
    – Charo
    Sep 4, 2023 at 14:52
  • @PeterShor: I'm not completely sure that the comparison with these recent examples is really relevant for a composition from the first half of the 12th century.
    – Charo
    Sep 4, 2023 at 14:56


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