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Italian Verse

Canzone, Italian from cantio - a song, was originally any lyrical piece that could be set to music. Its roots are in the Provincial Chanson but it was expanded and came into its own in Italy through the writings of Dante and Petrarch. Dante called it "the most excellent Italian verse form, the one which is the worthy vehicle for those tragic compositions which treat the three noblest subjects: martial valor, love and moral virtue." NPEOPP A lyrical triad was popular during the Middle Ages, but because the Canzone has carried a variety of frames through the centuries, the structural descriptions can sometimes appear in conflict. I provide below a couple of the structural definitions I was able to decifer but it appears to me that the bottom line is, it is up to the poet to create their own frame. Whatever form it takes, it should be musical.

The elements of the Canzone are:

  1. from the Middle Ages, commonly thought to be a poem written in 2 major divisions or sections the fronte and sirma (head and tail) which are connected by rhyme. The fronte or head is divided into 2 strophes which are structurally alike at the discretion of the poet, much like a sonnet's octave when made up of 2 structurally identical quatrains. The sirma or tail is usually written in a different structure from that used in the fronte. The dividing of the 1st section into 2 identically structured strophes and adding the sirma or tail, creates a triad which is similar in appearance to the Pindaric Ode.
  2. strophic. Strophes range from 6 to 20 lines but 14 lines seems to be particularly popular. The popular 14 line strophe is evidence that the sonnet may have been developed from an isolated strophe of the Canzone.
  3. originally syllabic, using Italianate lines. In English it is often written in iambic pentameter. But it is really up to the poet whether the poem is to be syllabic, metered or unmetered.
  4. rhymed but the rhyme scheme is variable, again at the discretion of the poet. Petrarch used an envelope rhyme scheme similar to his sonnet. Petrarch called his "sonnets" Canzoniere.
  5. often ended by a valediction or commentary of 2 to 4 lines.

    CANZONE III. by Francesca Petrarch (In 3 parts but the frame could be a bit skewed by the translator.)
    Verdi panni, sanguigni, oscuri o persi.

    Green robes and red, purple, or brown, or gray
    No lady ever wore,
    Nor hair of gold in sunny tresses twined,
    So beautiful as she, who spoils my mind
    Of judgment, and from freedom's lofty path
    So draws me with her that I may not bear
    Any less heavy yoke.

    And if indeed at times—­for wisdom fails
    Where martyrdom breeds doubt—
    The soul should ever arm it to complain
    Suddenly from each reinless rude desire
    Her smile recalls, and razes from my heart
    Every rash enterprise, while all disdain
    Is softened in her sight.

    For all that I have ever borne for love,
    And still am doomed to bear,
    Till she who wounded it shall heal my heart,
    Rejecting homage e'en while she invites,
    Be vengeance done! but let not pride nor ire
    'Gainst my humility the lovely pass
    By which I enter'd bar.

    Canzone by Rex Allen Brewer

    Tears trickle down a wrinkled sun worn face,
    blue sky and sunlight on a marble stone,
    the body rots in rich composted loam,
    hard scrapple dreams adrift in time and space.

    The old man, bent from wear, shuffles away.
    The hedge row blooms, the buzzards circle, fear.
    An oak offers shade, a squirrel sits near,
    nearby, near the church, dressed up children play.
    Beneath deep green leaves seen gold in the sun,
    he dreams of what might have been, and what was,
    of walks on rusty roads, a pair of one,
    of lonely nights beneath the evening star,
    of stuff ugly brings, and what beauty does,
    of nearby journeys that, then, seem so far.

    A hound dog sings, a pair of red birds flirt,
    suppertime, time to bid the blues goodbye,
    a good book and a single shot of rye,
    possibly another taste for dessert.
    Tomorrow a trip to town, food, deer grain,
    see a man about an old pickup truck,
    parts for the tiller at Sears and Roebuck,
    stop by the bridge, speak to God, pray for rain.
    He pulls a legal pad, white, from the shelf,
    writes a line, he prints, and thinks a moment,
    adds a line, marks it out, smiles to himself.
    In crafting words he finds calm like prayer.
    He escapes the images memory sent,
    the sorrow of the eternal nightmare.

    When I was but a boy, barefoot, white hair, small,
    I remember the plowing.
    We grew cotton for cash, and the corn grew tall,
    I remember the sowing.
    We played "jungle" games, deep in the tall corn,
    the lush soil warm on our feet.
    Magic flows in the rich dirt where I was born,
    worms for bait, 'taters to eat.
    In Mississippi, back then, mules turned the earth,
    we had two and a jackass.
    Mules were stubborn, the horses had little worth,
    but the groomed donkey had class.
    Mama worked the garden…eggplant, greens, beans, squash,
    tomatoes, okra, she also did the wash.

    The seeds were planted way back then.
    We harvest what we can,
    sugar beet, sour pickle, cayenne,
    wounded heart, weary man.

  • An Alternative English Canzone is a popular version which is described by Robin Skelton in his Shapes of our Singing which doesn't follow the triad concept at all.
    The elements of a popular English Canzone are:
    1. stanzaic, written in 5 stanzas of 12 lines each followed by a 5 line envoy.
    2. meter at the discretion of the poet.
    3. unrhymed. Instead of rhyme, 5 end words are repeated in a set pattern which was apparently carried over to the very first sonnets as written by 13th century Sicilian poet Giacomo da Lentini of the court of Frederick II.

      stanza 1: ABAACAADDAEE (letters refer to repeated end words not rhyme)
      stanza 2: EAEEBEECCEDD
      stanza 3: DEDDADDBBDCC
      stanza 4: CDCCECCAACBB
      stanza 5: BCBBDBBEEBAA
      envoy: ABCDE

      Canzone by Wystan Hugh Auden in the frame described by Robbin Skelton

      When shall we learn, what should be clear as day,
      We cannot choose what we are free to love?
      Although the mouse we banished yesterday
      Is an enraged rhinoceros today,
      Our value is more threatened than we know:
      Shabby objections to our present day
      Go snooping round its outskirts; night and day
      Faces, orations, battles, bait our will
      As questionable forms and noises will;
      Whole phyla of resentments every day
      Give status to the wild men of the world
      Who rule the absent-minded and this world.

      We are created from and with the world
      To suffer with and from it day by day:
      Whether we meet in a majestic world
      Of solid measurements or a dream world
      Of swans and gold, we are required to love
      All homeless objects that require a world.
      Our claim to own our bodies and our world
      Is our catastrophe. What can we know
      But panic and caprice until we know
      Our dreadful appetite demands a world
      Whose order, origin, and purpose will
      Be fluent satisfaction of our will?

      Drift, Autumn, drift; fall, colours, where you will:
      Bald melancholia minces through the world.
      Regret, cold oceans, the lymphatic will
      Caught in reflection on the right to will:
      While violent dogs excite their dying day
      To bacchic fury; snarl, though, as they will,
      Their teeth are not a triumph for the will
      But utter hesitation. What we love
      Ourselves for is our power not to love,
      To shrink to nothing or explode at will,
      To ruin and remember that we know
      What ruins and hyenas cannot know.

      If in this dark now I less often know
      That spiral staircase where the haunted will
      Hunts for its stolen luggage, who should know
      Better than you, beloved, how I know
      What gives security to any world.
      Or in whose mirror I begin to know
      The chaos of the heart as merchants know
      Their coins and cities, genius its own day?
      For through our lively traffic all the day,
      In my own person I am forced to know
      How much must be forgotten out of love,
      How much must be forgiven, even love.

      Dear flesh, dear mind, dear spirit, O dear love,
      In the depths of myself blind monsters know
      Your presence and are angry, dreading Love
      That asks its image for more than love;
      The hot rampageous horses of my will,
      Catching the scent of Heaven, whinny: Love
      Gives no excuse to evil done for love,
      Neither in you, nor me, nor armies, nor the world
      Of words and wheels, nor any other world.
      Dear fellow-creature, praise our God of Love
      That we are so admonished, that no day
      Of conscious trial be a wasted day.

      Or else we make a scarecrow of the day,
      Loose ends and jumble of our common world,
      And stuff and nonsense of our own free will;
      Or else our changing flesh may never know
      There must be sorrow if there can be love.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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

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