Characteristics of the sonnet
At one point in our lives, we all wonder what is a sonnet. A sonnet is a short poem that is slightly misunderstood and has fourteen lines in iambic pentameter with a meticulously patterned rhyme scheme. The sonnet has a reputation for being very complex, and hard to understand at times. Contrary to the popular belief, sonnets do not need to fit one specific rhyme scheme. The two most common sonnets are the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, named after Francesco Petrarch an Italian poet, and the English or Shakespearean sonnet, which was developed first by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. The first type of sonnet is Italian or Petrarchan. Many of the Italian sonnets, follows the rhyme scheme ABBA, ABBA, CDE, CDE or CDECDE, CDCCDC, CDEDCE. The significant distinction between an Italian sonnet and an English sonnet is the way the poem develops. Italian sonnets commence with an eight line octane, which introduces a difficulty, a metaphor, or a question, and concludes with a six line sestet, which answers or broadens upon the octane. In the Italian sonnet "What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why" Edna St.
Vincent Millay, illustrates a human situation in the octane. “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,/I have forgotten, and what arms have lain/Under my head till morning; but the rain/Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh/Upon the glass and listen for reply;/And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain/For unremembered lads that not again/Will turn to me at midnight with a cry”(1-8). And a parallel natural circumstance in the sestet “Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,/Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,/Yet know its boughs more silent than before:/I cannot say what loves have come and gone;/I only know that summer sang in me/A little while, that in me sings no more” (9-14). It is very rare to have a rhymed couplet in an Italian sonnet....
St. Vincent Millay, Edna. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. A. Booth, J.P. Hunter, K.J. Mays. 9th ed. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2005. 1030.
Shakespeare, William. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. A. Booth, J.P. Hunter, K.J. Mays. 9th ed. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2005. 1034.
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