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Russia: Onegin Stanza or Pushkin Sonnet

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
The Sonnet
Russian Poetry

Onegin Stanza is sometimes called the Pushkin Sonnet , probably because it is written in quatorzains (14 lines). However, in its original form, it is narrative (not lyrical), stanzaic, (written within the context of other stanzas) and does not necessarily take a turn or volta. Technically the stanza wouldn't qualify as a true sonnet. But the frame written in a single quatorzain in lyrical verse, as long as it "sings" certainly qualifies.

The form was named for and developed by the Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin from his 1825 novel in verse, Eugenij Onegin, which was made into the movie "Onegin" in 1999 staring Ralph Feines and Liv Tyler. Each stanza was originally meant to serve as a mini chapter.

The Onegin stanza or Pushkin Sonnet is:

  1. a narrative.
  2. stanzaic, written in any number of quatorzians composed of 3 quatrains and a concluding couplet. The 1st quatrain, introduces the main idea, the 2nd and 3rd quatrains develop the idea and the couplet is often a witty or instructional conclusion.
  3. metered, iambic tetrameter.
  4. rhymed. The rhyme scheme allows 5 rhymes and is varied by quatrain. The 1st quatrain is alternating rhyme, the 2nd is sequential rhyme, the 3rd is envelope rhyme and the stanza concludes with a rhyming couplet. Rhyme scheme abab ccdd effe gg. In Russian the rhyme also appears in a feminine-masculine pattern adding tension between syntax and rhyme. The a c and e rhyme are feminine while the b d f and g rhymes are masculine. In English I have found the feminine/masculine end pattern is often ignored. If you choose to write with the rise and fall end rhyme pattern add an extra unstressed syllable to the line with the feminine rhyme.


When written as a lyrical meditation in 14 lines the             
form is best referred to as the Pushkin Sonnet.

Just Lately by Goeffrey Le Voguer

Just lately my whole thoughts are turning
to words I wish I'd said: before
your out bound ship was churning
its white wake to some distant shore.
I should have listened to the anchor
and chain: the groans, the squeals, the rancor
of inferred pain. “This is a time
that cares not for a lover's mind!”
For without you a bleakness enters
my life; a creeping fog to tease
and cling like Spanish moss on trees.
And all our might-have-beens are centered
in its grey form, set to release
ghosts of missed opportunities.


















When written as a narrative in stanzaic form of more than
one stanza it is best referred to as the Onegin Stanza

Shadows at Dawn by Judi Van Gorder

To change direction of the past
would alter who I am today.
Eliminate regrets and cast
vague shadows on my current stay.
Those injured by my actions then
would now be also changed from when
this magic mending did occur,
I wonder how the lines would blur.
The boy I left, that broke his heart
moved on to find a better mate.
If I had stayed we'd play with fate
and sadly skip our trials apart.
It's best to leave things done and gone
a better way to see the dawn.

I gave up school and chose to wed,
no college paper dons my wall,
yet there is comfort in my bed
and my career has been my call.
With triple figures for my pay
I still find time to love and play.
Scholastic ventures can be found
without a formal classroom bound.
Should I return to former days,
the sheepskin prize, I'd give a try
but that would really be a lie,
I liked the journey in the maze.
It's best to leave things done and gone,
a brighter way to see the dawn.

Although this life is only lent
I'm grateful for this home called earth.
My autumn days have all been spent
it was a blink to now from birth.
I have matured, I will allow,
the winter seems less frigid now.
I'm happy with the choices made
with lots to do before I fade.
I'll leave a list of things undone,
without the dreams there is no me,
yet winter does not mean I flee.
I walk a path to find the sun
and strive to thrive until I'm gone
and can no longer see the dawn.

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