The kharja (in Arabic , meaning "final"), also known as jarcha in Spanish, is the final refrain of a "muwashshah", a lyric genre of Al-Andalus (the Islamic Iberian Peninsula) written in Classical Arabic or Hebrew.

The "muwashshah" consists of five stanzas ("bait") of four to six lines, alternating with five or six refrains ("qufl"); each refrain has the same rhyme and metre, whereas each stanza has only the same metre. The "kharja" appears often to have been composed independently of the "muwashshah" in which it is found.

The kharja is often read separately from the longer poem with which it was written down.Fact|date=April 2008

Characteristics of the Kharja

About a third of extant "kharjas" are written in Classical Arabic. Most of the remainder are in Andalusi Arabic, but there are about seventy examples that are written either in Ibero-Romance or with significant Romance elements. None are recorded in Hebrew even when the "muwashshah" is in Hebrew [Zwartjes, 1997, Love Songs from al-Andalus: History, Structure and Meaning of the Kharja (Leiden: Brill)] .

Generally, though not always, the "kharja" is presented as a quotation from a speaker who is introduced in the preceding stanza.

It is not uncommon to find the same "kharja" attached to several different "muwashshahat". The Egyptian writer Ibn Sanā' al-Mulk (1155-1211), in his "Dar al-Tirāz" (a study of the "muwashshahat", including an anthology) states that the "kharja" was the most important part of the poem, that the poets generated the "muwashshah" from the "kharja", and that consequently it was considered better to borrow a good "kharja" than compose a bad one [Fish Compton, Linda, 1976, Andalusian Lyrical Poetry and Old Spanish Love Songs: The Muwashshaḥ and its Kharja (New York: University Press), p.6] .

"Kharjas" may describe love, praise, the pleasures of drinking, but also ascetism.

Romance Kharjas

Though they comprise only a fraction of the corpus of extant "kharjas", it is the Romance "kharjas" that have attracted the greatest scholarly interest. With examples dating back to the 11th century, this genre of poetry is believed to be among the oldest in any Romance language, and certainly the earliest recorded form of lyric poetry in Ibero-Romance.

Their rediscovery in the 20th century by Hebrew scholar Samuel Miklos Stern and Arabist Emilio García Gómez is generally thought to have cast new light on the evolution of Romance languages.

The Romance "kharjas" are thematically comparatively restricted, being almost entirely about love. Approximately three quarters of them are put into the mouths of women, while the proportion for Arabic "kharjas" is nearer one fifthJones, Alan, 1981-82, ‘Sunbeams from Cucumbers? An Arabist’s Assessment of the State of Kharja Studies’, La corónica, 10: 38-53] .

Debate over Origins

Since the "kharja" may be written separately from the "muwashshah", many scholars have speculated that the Romance Kharjas were originally popular Spanish lyrics that the court poets incorporated into their poems [Dronke, Peter, 1978, The Medieval Lyric, 2nd edition (London: Hutchinson), p.86] . Some similarities have been claimed with other early Romance lyrics in theme, metre, and idiom [Monroe, James, 1975, ‘Formulaic Diction and the Common Origins of Romance Lyric Traditions’, Hispanic Review 43: 341-350.] [ [;jsessionid=jtccr14a95ed.alice KHARJAS AND VILLANCICOS] , by Armistead S.G., Journal of Arabic Literature, Volume 34, Numbers 1-2, 2003, pp. 3-19(17)] . Arab writers from the Middle East or North Africa as Ahmad Al-Tifasi (1184-1253) referred to "songs in the Christian style" sung in Al-Andalus from ancient times that some have identified as the "kharjas". []

Other scholars dispute such claims, arguing that the "kharjas" stand firmly within the Arabic tradition with little or no Romance input at all, and the apparent similarities only arise because the "kharjas" discuss themes that are universal in human literature anyway [Zwartjes, 1997, "Love Songs from al-Andalus: History, Structure and Meaning of the Kharja" (Leiden: Brill), p.294] .

Debate over Language and Reading

Modern translations of the Romance "kharjas" are a matter of debate particularly because Hebrew and Arabic scripts do not include vowels. Most of them were copied by scribes who probably did not understand the language they were recording, which may have caused errors in transmission. A large spectrum of translations is possible given the ambiguity created by the missing vowels and potentially erroneous consonants. Because of this, most translations of these texts will be disputed by some. Severe criticism has been made of García Gómez's editions because of his palaeographical errors [Jones, 1988, "Romance Kharjas in Andalusian Arabic Muwaššaḥ Poetry" (London: Ithaca Press)] . Further debate arises around the mixed vocabulary used by the authors.

Most of the Romance "kharjas" are not written entirely in Romance, but include Arabic elements to a greater or lesser extent. It has been argued that such blending cannot possibly represent the natural speech-patterns of the Romance-speakers [Whinnom, Keith, 1981-82, ‘The Mamma of the Kharjas or some Doubts Concerning Arabists and Romanists’, La corónica, 11: 11-17.] , and that the Romance "kharjas" must therefore be regarded as macaronic literature [Zwartjes, Otto, 1994, ‘La alternancia de código como recurso estilístico en las xarja-s andalusíes’, "La corónica", 22.2: 1-51] .

A minority of scholars, such as Richard Hitchcock contend that the Romance Kharjas are, in fact, not predominantly in a Romance language at all, but rather an extremely colloquial Arabic idiom bearing marked influence from the local Romance varieties. Such scholars accuse the academic majority of misreading the ambiguous script in untenable or questionable ways and ignoring contemporary Arab accounts of how "Muwashshahat" and "Kharjas" were composed. []

The linguistic, political, and social history of the Iberian peninsula is expressed in the linguistic subtleties of these poems, which many scholars find to be both confusing and interesting.Fact|date=April 2008



An example of a Romance "Kharja" (and translation):

This verse expresses the theme of the pain of longing for the absent lover ("habib"), a theme that, according to many scholars, was later developed in the Galician-Portuguese Cantigas de Amigo from the 12th to the 14th century. It had some influence on the mystic poetry of Saint John of the Cross in the 16th centuryFact|date=March 2008.


An example of an Arabic "kharja":

:How beautiful is the army with its orderly ranks:When the champions call out, ‘Oh, Wāthiq, oh, handsome one!’

The "kharja" is from a "muwashshah" in the "Dar al-Tirāz" of Ibn Sanā' al-Mulk. [Fish Compton, Linda, 1976, Andalusian Lyrical Poetry and Old Spanish Love Songs: The Muwashshaḥ and its Kharja (New York: University Press), pp.10-14]

Editions of the Kharjas

*Corriente 1997, "Poesía dialectal árabe y romance en Alandalús" (Madrid: Gredos) - contains all extant "kharjas" in Romance and Arabic
*Stern, 1953, "Les Chansons mozarabes" (Palermo: Manfredi).
*García Gómez, 1965, "Las jarchas romances de la serie árabe en su marco" (Madrid: Sociedad de Estudios y Publicaciones).
*Solà-Solé, 1973, "Corpus de poesía mozárabe" (Barcelona: Hispam).
*Monroe, James, and David Swiatlo, 1977, ‘Ninety-Three Arabic Harğas in Hebrew Muwaššaḥs: Their Hispano-Romance Prosody and Thematic Features’, "Journal of the American Oriental Society" 97: 141-163.

ee also

*Aljamiado, the practice of writing a Romance language with the Arabic or Hebrew scripts.
*Iberian Romance languages
*Mozarabic language
*Spanish poetry
*Arabic poetry

External links

* [ Texts of fifty-five kharjas, with different transcriptions and translation to English French and German]
* [ Ten kharjas translated to English]


*GARCIA GOMEZ, Emilio, "Jarchas Romances, serie árabe", ISBN 84-206-2652-X
*GALMÉS DE FUENTES, Álvaro, "Las Jarchas Mozárabes, forma y Significado" ISBN 84-7423-667-3
*NIMER, Miguel, "Influências Orientais na Língua Portuguesa", ISBN 85-314-0707-9
* [;jsessionid=jtccr14a95ed.alice KHARJAS AND VILLANCICOS] , by Armistead S.G., Journal of Arabic Literature, Volume 34, Numbers 1-2, 2003, pp. 3-19(17)
*HITCHCOCK, RICHARD, "The "Kharjas" as early Romance Lyrics: a Review"

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