Thursday, May 21, 2009

Basic Sonnet Forms

SONNET: A 14-line verse form usually having one of several conventional rhyme schemes.

the four types are:

English/ Shakespearean sonnet

The English sonnet (also called the Shakespearean sonnet after its foremost practitioner) comprises three quatrains and a final couplet, rhyming ababcdcdefefgg. An important variant of this is the Spenserian sonnet (introduced by the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser), which links the three quatrains by rhyme, in the sequence ababbabccdcdee. In either form, the ‘turn’ comes with the final couplet, which may sometimes achieve the neatness of an epigram.



Italian sonnet (or Petrarchan) Sonnet:

The basic meter of all sonnets in English is iambic pentameter (basic information on iambic pentameter), although there have been a few tetrameter and even hexameter sonnets, as well.

The Italian sonnet is divided into two sections by two different groups of rhyming sounds. The first 8 lines is called the octave and rhymes:

a b b a a b b a

The remaining 6 lines is called the sestet and can have either two or three rhyming sounds, arranged in a variety of ways:

c d c d c d
c d d c d c
c d e c d e
c d e c e d
c d c e d c

The exact pattern of sestet rhymes (unlike the octave pattern) is flexible. In strict practice, the one thing that is to be avoided in the sestet is ending with a couplet (dd or ee), as this was never permitted in Italy, and Petrarch himself (supposedly) never used a couplet ending; in actual practice, sestets are sometimes ended with couplets (Sidney's "Sonnet LXXI given below is an example of such a terminal couplet in an Italian sonnet).

The point here is that the poem is divided into two sections by the two differing rhyme groups. In accordance with the principle (which supposedly applies to all rhymed poetry but often doesn't), a change from one rhyme group to another signifies a change in subject matter. This change occurs at the beginning of L9 in the Italian sonnet and is called the volta, or "turn"; the turn is an essential element of the sonnet form, perhaps the essential element. It is at the volta that the second idea is introduced, as in this sonnet by Wordsworth:

"London, 1802"

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

Here, the octave develops the idea of the decline and corruption of the English race, while the sestet opposes to that loss the qualities Milton possessed which the race now desperately needs.

A very skillful poet can manipulate the placement of the volta for dramatic effect, although this is difficult to
do well



The Spenserian Sonnet:

The Spenserian sonnet, invented by Edmund Spenser as an outgrowth of the stanza pattern he used in The Faerie Queene (a b a b b c b c c), has the pattern:

a b a b b c b c c d c d e e

Here, the "abab" pattern sets up distinct four-line groups, each of which develops a specific idea; however, the overlapping a, b, c, and d rhymes form the first 12 lines into a single unit with a separated final couplet. The three quatrains then develop three distinct but closely related ideas, with a different idea (or commentary) in the couplet. Interestingly, Spenser often begins L9 of his sonnets with "But" or "Yet," indicating a volta exactly where it would occur in the Italian sonnet; however, if one looks closely, one often finds that the "turn" here really isn't one at all, that the actual turn occurs where the rhyme pattern changes, with the couplet, thus giving a 12 and 2 line pattern very different from the Italian 8 and 6 line pattern (actual volta marked by italics):

"Sonnet LIV"
Of this World's theatre in which we stay,
My love like the Spectator idly sits,
Beholding me, that all the pageants play,
Disguising diversely my troubled wits.
Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,
And mask in mirth like to a Comedy;
Soon after when my joy to sorrow flits,
I wail and make my woes a Tragedy.
Yet she, beholding me with constant eye,
Delights not in my mirth nor rues my smart;
But when I laugh, she mocks: and when I cry
She laughs and hardens evermore her heart.
What then can move her? If nor mirth nor moan,
She is no woman, but a senseless stone.



The Indefinables

There are, of course, some sonnets that don't fit any clear recognizable pattern but still certainly function as sonnets. ××××ley's "Ozymandias" belongs to this category. It's rhyming pattern of a b a b a c d c e d e f e f is unique; clearly, however, there is a volta in L9 exactly as in an Italian sonnet:

"Ozymandias"

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, (stamped on these lifeless things,)
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman wrote sonnets with free abandon and with virtually no regard for any kind of pattern at all, his rhymes after the first few lines falling seemingly at random, as in this sonnet from his "Sonnets, First Series," which rhymes a b b a b c a b a d e c e d, with a volta at L10:

"Sonnet XXVIII"

Not the round natural world, not the deep mind,
The reconcilement holds: the blue abyss
Collects it not; our arrows sink amiss
And but in Him may we our import find.
The agony to know, the grief, the bliss
Of toil, is vain and vain: clots of the sod
Gathered in heat and haste and flung behind
To blind ourselves and others, what but this
Still grasping dust and sowing toward the wind?
No more thy meaning seek, thine anguish plead,
But leave straining thought and stammering word,
Across the barren azure pass to God:
Shooting the void in silence like a bird,
A bird that shuts his wings for better speed.

One wonders if the "sod"/"God" rhyme, being six lines apart, actually works, if the reader's ear can pick it up across that distance. Still, the poem has the dialectical structure that a sonnet is supposed to have, so there is justification for in fact considering it one.


free verse:
Free Verse poetry does not have a strict pattern of rhyming. It does not have regular meter, rhyme, fixed line length, or a specific stanza pattern

No comments:

Post a Comment