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Ottavo Rima or Sonnetto Rispetto


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Italian Verse

The Ottavo Rima (rhyme of eight) or Sonnetto Rispetto (little song of respect) is believed to have originated in religious verse in the 13th century. It has been called the 3rd Italian Sonnet, although it is not a sonnet at all. It is traditionally a narrative epic often written in a series of octaves not the lyrical meditation contained within the quatorzain of the sonnet.

This form is best suited for "blending serious, comic and satirical attitudes and mingling narrative and discursive models.... It is the accumulation of rhyme, reaching a crescendo with the third repetition, which prepares the reader for the neat summation, the acute observation, or the epigrammatic twist which comes with the final couplet." NPOPP

It was the Italian, Pulci, in his Morgante Maggiore (1487), who brought a unique twist to the form, in a kind of mock-heroic, or half-serious, half-burlesque, style with which ottava rima has been most commonly identified. It was Pulci who influenced Frere and Byron when they resurrected the form in England two centuries later, however the most prominent example of Ottava Rima in English literature is Byron's Don Juan (1819-1824). The eight, eleven syllable, rhymed lines carry the same frame as the Strambotto Tuscano but the forms differ since the Strambotto is usually limited to one octave and is lyrical in nature while the Ottava Rima is a narrative and is most often written in more than one octave.

The elements of the Ottava Rima or Sonnetto Rispetto are:

  1. a fast narrative.
  2. stanzaic, written in any number of octaves.
  3. metered, most often iambic pentameter sometimes tetrameter. Its Spanish counterpart, the Ottava Real is hendecasyllabic (11 syllable lines).
  4. rhymed, Rhyme scheme is abababcc.
  5. best for blending serious and satirical attitudes.
  6. composed with the final couplet that sums up and brings a twist or enlightenment to the content of the stanza.

    The entire text of Don Juan' Canto I is on line and can be read at:

    Poem Hunter

    from Don Juan, by Lord Byron (1819-1824) 1st 4 stanzas

    Canto I I

    I WANT a hero: an uncommon want,
    When every year and month sends forth a new one,
    Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
    The age discovers he is not the true one;
    Of such as these I should not care to vaunt, 5
    I 'll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan-
    We all have seen him, in the pantomime,
    Sent to the devil somewhat ere his time.

    Vernon, the butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
    Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe,
    Evil and good, have had their tithe of talk,
    And filled their sign-posts then, like Wellesley now;
    Each in their turn like Banquo's monarchs stalk,
    Followers of fame, "nine farrow" of that sow:
    France, too, had Buonaparté and Dumourier
    Recorded in the Moniteur and Courier.

    Barnave, Brissot, Condorcet, Mirabeau,
    Pétion, Clootz, Danton, Marat, La Fayette
    Were French, and famous people, as we know;
    And there were others, scarce forgotten yet,
    Joubert, Hoche, Marceau, Lannes, Desaix, Moreau,
    With many of the military set,
    Exceedingly remarkable at times,
    But not at all adapted to my rhymes.

    Nelson was once Britannia's god of War,
    And still should be so, but the tide is turn'd;
    There's no more to be said of Trafalgar.
    'Tis with our hero quietly inurn'd;
    Because the army's grown more popular,
    At which the naval people are concern'd;
    Besides, the Prince is all for the land-service,
    Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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

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