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2 posts in this topic

Explore the Craft of Writing PoetryThe Sonnet / Italian Poetry


The Sicilian Sonnet

The origin of the sonnet has some uncertainty, though it is believed to be born in Italy from the troubadours who sang for the courts and the earliest "true" sonnet is credited to Giacomo da Lentini of the Sicilian court of Frederick II (1197-1250) in the 13th century.


Initially the Sicilian Sonnet was written with alternate repeating end words, (word sequence 12121212, 343434). With time, the alternating end word pattern of the Sicilian Sonnet evolved into an alternating rhyme pattern. (Repetition of end words would later appear in the Sestina in a more intricate mathematical sequence.)


The defining features of the Sicilian Sonnet are:

  • a quatorzain, made up of an octave followed by a sestet.
  • metric, in English, written in iambic pentameter.
  • composed with the octave presenting an idea, problem or question, followed by a sestet finding the solution or resolution. The word "sestet" originally was reserved for the sonnet or other forms in which the group of 6 lines attempts to distinguish itself from other line groups such as the octave of the sonnet. This is in contrast to the words sixain or sexain which are 6 line stanzas usually written in conjunction with other sixains or sexains as in the Sestina.
  • rhymed using only 4 rhymes. The difference between Sicilian and Italian is in the rhyme scheme. The octave made up of 2 quatrains alternates rhyme abababab. The sestet made up of 2 tercets with alternate rhyme cdcdcd.


    The Song of Healing by Judi Van Gorder


    The urgent shouts, though muted, dig and dart

    inside the hidden catacombs of mind,

    because lost hope and fear can cloud the heart

    a gift is waiting, patient, pure and kind;

    when prodding pain is pulling me apart,

    my need grows deep and still is undefined,

    the pleading soul surrenders with a start,

    the gift remains steadfast, with Him aligned.


    The alleluias' simple healing ways

    can lift the ailing spirit from despair

    as music touches all who choose to raise

    their voice in gratitude and honest care.

    He craves no gilded song from us in praise,

    for love of us, He grants the gift of prayer.


    Here is Jacopo da Untini's (1188- 1240) "Io rn'aggio posto in core a Dio servire" (translated by John Drury): a Sicilian Sonnet

    "Io rn'aggio posto in core a Dio servire"


    I find room in my heart for serving God

    so that at last, I might reach Paradise,

    the holy place where, I have heard it said,

    solace and ease and gaiety suffice.

    Without my lady, though, I wouldn't tread

    heavenward for her blonde hair, her bright face,

    because my pleasure would be stale indeed

    if she were not a part of all that bliss.

    But no, believe me, I have no intent

    of trafficking in sin while going there.

    I only want to gaze at her, content

    with her sweet look, the deepness of her stare

    so all my consolation would be spent

    watching my lady's joy reach everywhere.

Next the Petrarchan or Italian Sonnet

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