Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hooked on Petrarch

A "true" Petrarchan octave (abbaabba) is difficult to pull off in English. (Alert readers will observe that I only managed it in "Watercolors" with the aid of a slightly slant rhyme-- "should" shouldn't really rhyme with "blood/flood/mud".)

But the modified Petrarchan octave, abbacddc, isn't any more difficult than the traditional cross-rhymed Shakespearean octave, ababcdcd. And I'm finding I like it better. Since the beginning of the year I count 11 Petrarchan or modified Petrarchan, 3 Shakespearean (one of which, "Camellias", used only two rhymes throughout), and 5 "other" (blank verse or free verse) sonnets.

Part of what appeals, I think, is the greater freedom of the sestet. The Shakespearean pretty much has to be efefgg. The Petrarchan has so many more possibilities: effegg is the one I seem to settle on most often, but I also like efefef, efgefg, efegfg... And for some reason I don't like the idea of welding a Shakespearean octave onto a Petrarchan-variant sestet.

But besides that, I like the way the abba rhyme, envelope rhyme, folds back on itself. It gives more of a sense of closure than the cross-rhyme, and strengthens the separation between the octave and the sestet, thus calling attention to the volta.

Collection available! Knocking from Inside

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