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Tinker

Poetic Units Named for Their Sicilian or Italian Origins

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Tinker

Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Italian Verse

The birth of the sonnet gave recognition to the various components that made up the "little song" as viable vehicles of poetic communication. Not only did the sonnet take on a name but so too did its parts. The major difference between the Sicilian and Italian Sonnets is evolutionary in nature, moving from the lofty tones of love of God or platonic friendships to the more earthy love for a woman or man.

Both the Sicilain and Italian forms carry the same meter. Originally the lines were hendecasyllabic. In English, the lines are primarily iambic pentameter.

The frames named from the Italians, remain consistent in line number with their stanzaic counterparts, tercet - 3 line unit, quatrain- 4 line unit, quintet - 5 line unit, sestet- 6 line unit, septet - 7 line unit and octave - 8 line unit.

The word sestet assigned to the sonnet's final 6 lines was originally meant to identify those lines following a stanza of a different line structure such as the octave as separate and different from a 6 line unit within a stanzaic form such as the sixains of the Sestina where all stanzas are the same 6 line frame. Over the centuries the lines have been blurred and the word sestet has become synonymous with most any 6 line unit. However for the purist the word sestet is still reserved for the 6 lines concluding the sonnet.

It is the difference in rhyme scheme that is the most obvious in separating the Sicilian from the Italian form. The Sicilian employs alternate rhyme while the Italian or Petrarchan quatrain and octave employ envelope rhyme.

The Sicilian Sonnet came first, the 13th century court of King Frederick and probably influenced by Occitan or French since it came by way of the traveling troubadours. The parts of the Sicilian Sonnet will forever be connected to their roots by name.

  • The Sicilian Quatrain is a 4 line unit, written in iambic pentameter with alternating rhyme, abab that will change from stanza to stanza abab cdcd.
  • The Sicilian Octave sometimes called the Neapolitan Octave, is an 8 line unit written in iambic pentameter turned on only 2 rhymes, alternating rhyme scheme abababab.
  • The Sicilian Tercet is a 3 line unit written in iambic pentameter with alternating rhyme aba. When written in stanzaic form the rhyme of the Sicilian tercet like the quatrain changes aba cdc efe etc however it can also become interlocking aba bcb cdc etc, probably best recognized in the frame of the Terza Rima.
  • The Sicilian Sestet is a 6 line unit written in iambic pentameter turned on only 2 rhymes, alternating rhyme scheme cdcdcd.
  • The Sicilian Quintet is not employed in the sonnet but it seems reasonable to mention here since it originated in the same era and follows the same pattern. It is stanzaic and can be written in any number of 5 line units, metered iambic pentameter with rhyme scheme ababa.
  • The Sicilian Septet is another unit of verse not employed in the sonnet but born in the same era and it too follows the same pattern. It is stanzaic and can be written in any number of 7 line units, metered iambic pentameter with rhyme scheme abababa. (Note the stinginess of the rhyme.)

The Italian Sonnet blossomed in the 14th century when Francesco Petrarch wrote his Sonnets for Laura. This form, also known as the Petrarchan Sonnet has become the most popular sonnet form matched only by the Shakespearean Sonnet in popularity.

  • The Italian Quatrain is a 4 line unit written in iambic pentameter with envelope rhyme abba. Also known as an envelope quatrain.
  • The Italian Octave is an 8 line unit written in iambic pentameter turned on only 2 rhymes, envelope rhyme abbaabba.
  • The Italian Sestet, brought to England by Sir Edmund Spenser, adds an additional rhyme. It is a 6 line unit written in iambic pentameter and is rhymed cdecde.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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