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Tinker

The Sonnet

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Tinker

Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Italian Verse
Sonnet Comparison Chart

The Sonnet, Italian sonnetto or Occitan sonet both meaning "little song" or "little sound" is a lyrical meditation. It is a verse form of which some variation can be found in almost all Western cultures and even a few Asian cultures. The sonnet often offers a conflict or question, and then works on a solution or answer, all within fourteen lines. 

There are two dominant sonnet forms, the Petrarchan or Italian Sonnet and the English or Shakespearean Sonnet. The other sonnet forms seem to be either variations of these or less known predecessors. There are even forms that call themselves sonnets but might not be true sonnets, usually because of lack of pivot or number of lines.

The origin of the sonnet is said to have some uncertainty, though many believe it was born in the south of France or northern Italy, created by the troubadours who sang for the courts. The earliest "true" sonnet is credited to Giacomo da Lentini of the Sicilian court of Frederick II (1197-1250).

Sonnet 43 from Songs of the Portugese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints!---I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!---and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

All sonnets should include these elements:

  1. a lyrical meditation. The sonnet should sing.
  2. usually composed with themes of love, spirituality, nature, sorrow or celebration.
  3. a quatorzain , (a poem in 14 lines).
  4. metric. In English, the sonnet is primarily written in iambic pentameter.
  5. rhymed. The rhyme scheme is one of the features that identify the individual sonnets. (The Unrhymed and Blank sonnets by name deliberately lack rhyme which technically would be a nonce unrhymed scheme.) See the Sonnet Comparison Chart.
  6. written with question-answer or conflict-resolution structure.
  7. composed with a turn or change in tone. It is the positioning of this pivot or volta that is also a defining feature of sonnet.

    Included in this section are the Sonnet Forms in approximate chronological order.

    1. Sicilian Sonnet
    2. Petrarchan or Italian Sonnet
    3. Wyatt/Surrey Sonnet
    4. Spenserian Sonnet
    5. Shakespearean Sonnet
    6. Alternating Sonnet
    7. Blank Verse Sonnet
    8. Caudate or Tailed Sonnet
    9. Curtal or Curtailed Sonnet
    10. Crown of Sonnets
    11. Terza Rima or Diaspora Sonnet
    12. Cornish Sonnet
    13. Redondillia, or Napoleonic or Sardine Sonnet
    14. French Sonnet
    15. Bowlesian or Australian Sonnet
    16. Beymorilin Sonnet
    17. Wordsworth Sonnet
    18. Blues Sonnet
    19. Rainis Sonnet
    It is about here that I lose track of what came next.
    20. Couplet Sonnet
    21. Onegin Stanza or Pushkin Sonnet
    22. The Heroic Sonnet
    23. The Double Sonnet
    24. Chained Sonnet
    25. Alfred Dorn sonnet
    26. Envelope Sonnet
    27. Scupham Sonnet
    28. Shadow Sonnet
    29. Jeffrey's Sonnet
    30. Arabian Sonnet
    31. Kyrielle Sonnet
    32. Asean Sonnet
    33. Chandler Sonnet
    34. Echo Sonnet
    35. Signature Sonnet

Outside Articles on the Sonnet

The Sonnet at Poet's Garret a brief but comprehensive history of the sonnet.
Art of the Sonnet
The Sonnet
Basic Sonnet Forms


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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

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