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Bowlesian Sonnet or Australian Sonnet and Canadian Sonnet

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
The Sonnet
Sonnet Comparison Chart
English Verse

Bowlesian Sonnet or Australian Sonnet is attributed to English poet, William Lisle Bowles (1762 -1850) whose book of 14 sonnets published in 1789 was heralded for its "simple sincerity" and expression of thought through appreciation for life and nature. His works carried a tender tone and have been described as melodious.Although Bowles was English and probably never travelled to Australia, his sonnets did. The honesty and serenity of his poems struck a chord in what was then England's penal colony and the form was eventually adopted by the Aussies as their own. Poet's Garret tells this story better than I. The elements of the Bowlesian Sonnet are:

  1. a quatorzain made up of 3 quatrains and a couplet.
  2. rhymed abba cddc effe gg.
  3. metric, iambic pentameter
  4. composed with the pivot or volta between the 9th and 13th lines.
    On hearing the Bells at Sea
    by William Lisle Bowles 1789

    ow sweet the tuneful bells' responsive peal!
    As when at opening dawn the fragrant breeze
    Touches the trembling sense of pale disease,
    So piercing to my heart their force I feel.
    And hark! with lessening cadence now they fall,                                           
    And now along the white and level tide
    They fling their melancholy music wide;
    Bidding me many a tender thought recall
    Of summer days, and those delightful years
    When by my native streams, in life's fair prime,
    The mournful magic of their mingling chime
    First waked my wondering childhood into tears!
    But seeming now, when all those days are o'er,
    The sounds of joy once heard and heard no more.
    Lavender Judi Van Gorder 8-5-07

    A low persistent humming draws my ear.
    The honey bees have found a favored source
    and gather sipping nectar, intercourse
    with flowers said to wash away one's fear.
    I breathe the scent and rest my mind,
    content to dream of sweeter times of innocence
    when days were clear, no worries, no pretense
    The grey-green leaves flare out as in consent,
    soft purple buds in spiral cones ascend
    and reach toward heaven's gate, amends assured.
    My journey there comes by the written word,
    a pilgrimage in lavender I've penned.
    I too am rooted to the earth that spins
    and know the source from where my dawn begins.

Canadian Sonnet -  Now here is where we get into the nuance of what is a stanza.  A stanza is a thought unit in a specific number of lines surrounded by other thought units in a uniform pattern. (This could be an infinite number of combinations, such as 3 quatrains or 2 cinquains or  a tercet, a couplet, a tercet, a couplet etc or as in the case of the 2 most popular sonnet forms, either a quatorzain made up of an octave followed by sestet or 3 quatrains followed by a couplet.) Remember these are thought units, however we often show the separation of these thought units with either a space on the page or with rhyme pattern such as ababcdcd which is an octave made up of 2 alternating rhymed quatrains, while abababab is simply an alternating rhymed octave and abab cdcd are 2 quatrains.   Jose Rizal M Reyes of the Philippines took the Bowlesian Sonnet, changed the structure of the stanza pattern and called it the Canadian Sonnet.  

The elements of the Canadian Sonnet are:

  1. a quatorzain made up of 2 quatrains followed by 2 tercets
  2. metric, iambic pentameter
  3. rhymed, rhyme scheme abba cdcd eff egg
  4. pivot or volta L9 or after

    Today’s Best by Lawrence Eberhart

    The editor demands my very best
    with ocean’s depth and pictures for one’s mind.
    Let waterfalls of syllables combine
    while melodies of sounds they manifest.

    Just that and nothing less is all that’s asked.
    The pen is poised and pauses while I think –
    perhaps I scratch my beard and sip a drink,
    before returning, determined, to my task.

    Oh, hell! How often does one sit to write
    a piece of crap to merely fill a page?
    Real poets don’t do that in any age.

    We never set out trying to be trite.
    Our very best attempt are made in vain
    When mind’s creative cogs get clogged again.

Next Wordsworth creates his own rhyme scheme for the Wordsworth Sonnet, Sonnet

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