Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Italian Sonnet

Fourteen lines of iambic pentameter arranged in a more elaborate rhyme scheme form a sonnet. There are two major variants. The form originated in Italy, and the word derives from "sonetto", which is Italian for "little song". The Italian sonnet or Petrarchan sonnet follows a rhyme scheme of ABBA ABBA CDE CDE, ABBA ABBA CD CD CD, ABBA ABBA CCE DDE, or ABBA ABBA CDD CEE. In each of these, a group of eight lines (the octave) is followed by a group of six (the sestet). Typically, the octave introduces a situation, idea, or problem to which the sestet provides a response or resolution. For example, consider Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Sound of the Sea":
The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain's side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.