The Sonnet etc - craig cornish's Blog

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The Sonnet etc

Blog Posted:8/10/2017 3:29:00 PM

There is no other site that presents the history and evolution of the sonnet quite like, a production Terry Clitheroe can be proud of, and yet it still is not totally comprehensive in that it neglects to adress Contemporay/Modern sonnets.Here  it is.





Brief History of the Sonnet Form
Conventional Sonnet Forms
Famous Poets Forms
National Sonnets
Introduction to Contraversial Sonnet Forms (Quatorzain)


Brief History of the Sonnet Form

Although the Italian sonnet is also labelled Petrarchan, as the English sonnet also bears the name of Shakespearian, nothing could be more erroneous. It was in fact created by Giacomo da Lentini, (1188-1240) head of thirteen other notaries who formed the Sicilian School of Court Poetry (14 total) and later the Neo-Sicilian School (1235-1294) when he moved to Tuscany. There he started writing in his own language which was Italian, and wrote almost 300 sonnets. Other members of this school included Dante Alighieri (1235-1321) and Guido Cavalcanti (1250-1300).

The most famous user of this form was Francesco Petrarcha (1304-1374) whose sonnets became popular throughout Europe. Petrarcha actually revived a lagging form and gave it even more life.

At this point it should be emphasised that the form had been deliberately created with 14 lines, whether it was because of the number of the school or a spiritual and mathematical formula of 8 and 6, is still being argued, but the fact is that it was a ratio of 8 and 6, a statement and volta or turning point, making a 14 line poem.

The Spanish form follows the Italian form and is merely an Italian Octave with a Sicilian Sestet. The French also liked the Italian octave, but decided they would make the volta more explosive and made it a couplet with a following a quatrain and a similar pattern to the previously used quatrain, thus making it a definite change rather than casual one or ignoring a change completely, whilst still maintaining the 8/6 ratio.

During his ambassadorial travels through the courts of France, Spain and Italy, Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503 - 1542) was without doubt, privy to the sonnets that abounded there and later it is alleged that his sonnet "Whoso list to hunt" was about having to give up his love for Anne Boleyn and was based around Petrarch's Rhyme 190. He is credited with introducing the English sonnet form and translating some of Petrarch's poetry. He was also an admirer of Chaucer innovative languages, but it took 15 years after his death before any of his work was published. Looking at some of his work, a true Petrarchan can be seen originally, however with his later work a deviation becomes apparent where he still follows the Italian octave, but the volta uses a quatrain using the same rhyme scheme and a couplet. It can be hypothesised that the next step was using three quatrains and a couplet, and called the English Sonnet, being English they would ignore the reasons for 8/6.

Up to this point no meter was stated but it was natural the English of the time to use a form we now know as Iambic Pentameter, that had been created by Chaucer.

Geoffrey Chaucer - Linguistic. Chaucer wrote in continental accentual-syllabic metre, a style which had developed since around the twelfth century as an alternative to the alliterative Anglo-Saxon metre. (Court Poetry). Chaucer is known for metrical innovation, (writing in English) inventing the Rime Royal, and he was one of the first English poets to use the five-stress line, the iambic pentameter, in his work, with only a few anonymous short works using it before him. His most famous use was in the Canterbury Tales.

Edmund Spenser's sonnet is based on the Petrarchan sonnet and still follows the 8/6 pattern, however whilst following the conclusion idea it does so by use of a quatrain and a couplet which had finally been adopted by English poets.

The form still evolving, William Shakespeare, like many of his contemporaries, wrote poetry and drama in iambic pentameter. There is some debate over whether works such as Shakespeare's were originally performed with the rhythm prominent, or whether it was embedded in the patterns of normal speech as is common today. In either case, when read aloud, such verse naturally follows a beat.


Quick Guide to Conventional Forms

(for more information click on the form)


Sicilian Sonnet Sicilian Octave.. a. b. a. b. a. b. a. b
Sicilian Sestet.. c. d. c. d. c. d.
Pre-Iambic Pentameter
Italian Sonnet
Italian Octave,, a. b. b. a. a. b. b. a
Italian Seste,, c. d. e. c. d. e.
Pre-Iambic Pentameter
Italian Sonnet
Sonetto Rispetto
Ottava Rima Octave.. a. b. a. b. a. b. c. c.
Italian Sestet.. d. e. f. d. e. f.
Sicilian Sestet.. d. e. d. e. d. e.
Pre-Iambic Pentameter
French Sonnet Italian Octave, Sestet begins.. c. c. then..
d. c. c. d. .or. d. e. e. d. . or. d. e. d. e.
Eight syllable meter
Spanish Sonnet Italian Octave.. a. b. b. a. . a. b. b. a
Rima Alterata.. c. d. c. d. c. d.
Ten syllable meter
Rime Royal Sonnet


.. a. b. a. b. b. c. c. . . d. e. d. e. e. f. f.

No Meter Specified
Spenserian Sonnet a. b. a. b. . b. c. b. c. . c. d. c. d. . e. e.

Pre-Iambic Pentameter
English Sonnet
a. b. a. b. . c. d. c. d. . e. f. e. f. . g .g.

Iambic Pentameter

Complex Variations
Additions of Lines,
Stanza or Sonnets


Famous Poets Forms

(for more information click on the form)


Burns Sonnet .. a. b. a. b. . c. d. d. c. . . . e. f. f. e. . g. g

Definately nae Iambic ye ken
Byron Sonnet .. a.b. b. a. . a. c. c. a. . . . d. e. d. . e. d. e

No Meter Specified
Keats Sonnet .. a. b. c. . a. b. d. . c. a. b. . c. d. e. . d. e.

No Meter Specified
J.G.Percival .. a. b. c. . a. b. d. . c. a. b. . c. d. e. . d. e.

No Meter Specified
Pushkin Sonnet .. a. b. a. b. . c. c. d. d. . e. f. f. e. . g. g.

No Meter Specified
Shelley Sonnet .. a. b. a. b. a. c. d. c. . . e. d. e. f. e. f.

No Meter Specified
Tennyson Sonnet .. a1. b. a2. b. c. d. d. c. e. f. e. a2. a1. f. e.

No Meter Specified
Wordsworth Sonnet .. a. b. b. a. . a. b. b. a. . c. d. c. d. . e. e.

No Meter Specified
Wyatt Sonnet .. a. b. b. a. . a. c. c. a. . d. e. e. d. f. f.

No Meter Specified


National Sonnets

(for more information click on the form)


American Sonnet .. a. b. b. a. . . c. d. d. d. c. . or . . c. d. e. d. c.

No Meter Specified
Arabian Sonnet


.. a. a. a. a. . b. b. b. b. . c. c. c. . d. d. d.

No Meter Specified
Australian Sonnet


.. a. b. b. a. . . c. d. d. c. . . e. f. f. e. . . g. g.

No Meter Specified
Dutch Sonnet


.. a. b. c. c. b. a. . .d . d. . . e. x. e. f. x. f.

No Meter Specified
German Sonnet


.. a. b. b. a. . .b. c. c. .b . . . c. d. d. . . c. d. d.

No Meter Specified
Irish Sonnet


.. a. b. a. b. . . b. c. b. c. . . c. d. c. d. . . d. d.

No Meter Specified
Korean Sonnet


.. a. a. a. a. a. a. a....b. b. b. b. b. b. b.

No Meter Specified
Malaysian Sonnet


.. a. a. b. a. . . b. b. c. b. . . c. c. d. c. . . d. d.

No Meter Specified
New Zealand Sonnet


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

No Meter Specified
Trinidad Sonnet


.. A. b. a. . c. b. c. . D. e. d. . . f. e. f. . . A. D.

No Meter Specified
Vietnamese Sonnet
(Luc Bat)


.. a. (a. x. b). b. (b. x. c). c. (c. x. d). d. .
(d. x. e).e. (e. x. f). f. (f. x. g). g. (g. x. a)
Alternate 6. 8. Sound units


Controversial Sonnet Forms (Quatorzain)

(for more information click on the form)


Alfred Dorn Sonnet


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

No Meter Specified

Beymorlin Sonnet English or Italian basic, Second sylable of each line has an internal rhyme scheme
Ten syllables or Iambic Pentameter
Blank Verse No rhyme pattern

Iambic Pentameter
Blues Sonnet


A. A. a. . . B. B. b. . . C. C. c. . . D. D. d. . e. e.
Iambic Pentameter
Or..Do yo thang
Brisbane Sonnet


.. a. b. c. a. . . b. c. d. e. . . f. d. e. f. . . g. g.

Iambic Pentameter or Similar
Busta Sonetto


.. a. b. x. b. a. . . c. d. x. d. c. . .e. f. f. e.

Iambic Pentameter or Similar
Cornish Sonnet


.. a. b. a. c. b. C. . . d. e. d. f. e. F. . . C. F.
Or.. a. b. a. c. b. C. . . D. e. d. f. e. F. . . C. D.
Or.. A. b. a. c. b. c. . . D. e. d. f. e. f. . . A. D.
Or.. A. b. a. c. b. c. . . d. e. d. f. e. F. . . A. F
Curtal Sonnet


.. a. b. c. a. b. c. . . d. c. b. d. c.
Or. . a. b. c. a. b. c. . . d. b. c. d. c.
last line spondee, or at least a tail shorter
Cyhydedd Fer Sonnet


.. a. a. b. b. . . c. c. d. d. . . e. e. f. f. . . g. g

8 syllable lines

Divino Sonetto .. a. a. b. b. . . d. c. c. d. . . e. e. f. . . e. g. g

No Meter Specified

Echo Sonnet


.. A. b. b. A1. . . a. c. c. A1. . . a. d. d. A1. . . A.A1

Iambic Pentameter or similar

Envelope Sonnet


.. a. b. c. c. b. a. . . d. d. . . e. f. g. g. f. e.

No Meter Specified

Free Form No rhyme pattern

No meter


.. A. A. . . b. A. . . b. A. . . b. A. . . b. A. . . b. A

No Meter Specified



.. A nine line start: a. a. b. c. b. d. e. d. e.
Then a Quitain any variation of a. b. c. d. e.
No Meter Specified
John Tee


.. A. B. c. d. e. f. A. B. g. h. i. j. A. B.

No Meter Specified


.. A. b. a. B. . . c. b. c. B. . . d. b. d. B. . . A. B.
No Meter Specified


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

10 syllables or Iambic Pentameter or similar.


.. a. a. . b. b. b. . . c. c. . . d. d. d. . . .
Quatrains e. f. e. f. . or. e. f. f. e. . or. e. e. f. f.
10 syllables or Iambic Pentameter or similar.


.. A. b1. a. b2. . b1. c1. b2. c2. . c1. a1. c2. A. . a1. A

No Meter Specified
Rime Royal Sonnet


.. a. b. a. b. b. c. c. . .d. e. d. e. e. f. f.

No Meter Specified
Rondel Prime


.. A. B. a. b. . . a. b. A. B. . . a. b. b. a. A. B
Or.. A. B. a. b. . . a. b. A. B. . . a. b. a. b. A. B
No Meter Specified


First Two Stanza ..a. a. b. c. c. . . d. d. b. e. e.
Third stanza. . b. b. f. f.......or . f. f. g. g.
. . . . . . . . . or. . f. g. f. g.......or . f. g. g. f


.. a. a. b. a. . . b. b. c. b. . . c. c. a. c. . . a. a.

No Meter Specified

Sapphic Ode


3 x 4 lines, 3 Iambic Tetrameter, last line Iambic Dimeter. Couplet Iambic Tetrameter
a. b. a. b. . .c. d. c. d. . .e. f. e. f. . .g. g.


3. 4. 3. 4
any variation of tercet with any quatrain
No Meter Specified
Sestina or Quastina


.. a. b. c. d... d. c. a. b... b. a. d. c... c. b.. d. a.

No Meter Specified

Soneto Cinco, Cuatro y Cinco


.. a. a. b. b. x... c. c. d. d... e. e. f. f. x. or
.. x. a. a. b. d... c. c. d. d... x. e. e. f. f.
No Meter Specified


A1. b. b. A2. . . c. d. d. c. . . e. f. f. e. . . A1. A2.

No Meter Specified

Terza Rima Sonnet


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

No Meter Specified

Triolet Sonnet


.. A. B. a. A. a. b. A. B. a. A. a. b. A. B.

No Meter Specified

Villanelle Sonnet


A1. b. A2. a. b. A2. a. b. A1. a. b. A2. A1. A2.

No Meter Specified

Wreathed or
Un-wreathed Sonnet


(Un-)Wreath Octave and Sestet or
3x (Un-)Wreath Quatrains and a Couplet
Please Login to post a comment
Date: 8/11/2017 7:30:00 AM
Fact is that most amateur poets think there is only one kind of sonnet and can't even write that correctly because they were never shown how and most can't write sonnets that need meter because they equate syllables with meter when meter is "feet". Most professional poets can write meter if they wish to but don't because it is rarely excepted for publication and they like the freedom from meter and exact rhyme. Many disagree but I think exceptional writing can be done in any form when all the proper tools are used correctly. Outside of poetry soup these forms don't matter but just like in school we must fill our education with as much as we can if we want to improve.
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cornish Avatar
craig cornish
Date: 8/12/2017 7:15:00 AM
Most "I Don't Know" poems are free verse, or simply rhyme. If a form is required for a contest just follow the guidelines. Otherwise write freely then go back and fine tune to include the attributes that will change it from bland to interesting, then from interesting to captivating.
Kibble Avatar
Sean Kibble
Date: 8/11/2017 7:16:00 PM
Craig for the uninitiated it will be quite daunting to write a correct sonnet. In fact these writers may find difficulty in selecting a form to write to, hence why we see a lot of "I do not know". Actually it would an interesting topic to blog about - How does one decide which form to use for their poem.
Date: 8/11/2017 1:33:00 AM
Craig, please! I'm a dude on the wrong side of 55 - it's a slippery slope, mate. To me multi-tasking is holding barbeque tongs in one hand and a beer in the other. The next time I go to write a sonnet I'll have nightmares.
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cornish Avatar
craig cornish
Date: 8/11/2017 7:34:00 AM
It's okay Keith, since both hands are full, sounds like you need an administrative assistant 8-)
Date: 8/10/2017 9:23:00 PM
Very thorough, Craig!!
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cornish Avatar
craig cornish
Date: 8/11/2017 7:14:00 AM
Kind of fun 8-)
Date: 8/10/2017 8:43:00 PM
I don't know what happened, I thought I already commented here. Did you delete my comment? lol No seriously, this is crazy awesome... I usually do Shakespearean (English) sonnets because I rock at Iambic Pentameter lol But, Cyndi did teach me about modern sonnets a couple years ago and I like those too. This is a lot of info, Craig, thanks for sharing! ~hugs
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cornish Avatar
craig cornish
Date: 8/11/2017 7:13:00 AM
I NEVER would delete you Becca!
Date: 8/10/2017 5:46:00 PM
very interesting, when reading I had already thought the 14 lines represented the fourteen schools, then read some had given thought to it, though not a given...still a very interesting blog Craig, thank you for it...interested to see how many of the... ahem...poets on this site take the time like I did to read it...rules, there's always rules, from close the door to put the toilet seat down...
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cornish Avatar
craig cornish
Date: 8/11/2017 7:10:00 AM
Date: 8/10/2017 4:06:00 PM
Just a note about Contemporary/Modern Sonnets which I have had much fun with since Cyndi introduced them about 3 years ago. The freedom of unequal syllable line lengths, no meter and rhyme that should be slanted (not exact). LOL--Ironically an English Sonnet must be Iambic Pentameter with a set exact rhyme scheme (the rules) yet a modern sonnet must have no meter and no exact rhyme (the rules)---we can't escape rules even in freedom but in either world we can have fun.
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