2.18 Italian Sonnet

Lastly, let’s take a gander at a somewhat different rhyme scheme in the form of an Italian Sonnet by James DeFord, handily enough called Italian Sonnet. The first 8 lines of this poem, and I’ll add that an 8-line stanza is called an octave, follows the abba rhyme scheme. Listen the just the end line rhymes:

Away/breath/left/yesterday 

Way/guess/less/today  

away/yesterday in stanza 1 are the a rhymes.

breath and left introduced in the middle of stanza 1 are the b rhymes.

way/today in stanza 2 are a rhymes since they rhyme with away/yesterday 

guess/less are b rhymes which MOSTLY rhyme with breath/left in stanza 1. You might notice that less and left have that same internal vowel rhyme, the ef and the es. This repeating vowel sound is called assonance and it is also on your Poetry and Figures of Speech document on the website. When words sound similar in rhyme scheme but are not exact rhymes, we call them slant rhymes. So, DeFord the poet is using a slant rhyme with less and left.

Let’s finish the final six lines of this sonnet, called the sestet, a stanza with six lines. 

spurned/truth/turned/aloof  

spurned and turned are now c rhymes while truth and aloof are d rhymes. 

The poem ends with the couplet, back to away/today both the original a line rhymes. So, the rhyme scheme for this poem is as follows:

a/b/b/a  a/b/b/a  c/d/c/d  a/a 

Activity: Italian Sonnet

By James DeFord

Turn back the heart you’ve turned away (a)
Give back your kissing breath (b)
Leave not my love as you have left (b)
The broken hearts of yesterday (a)
But wait, be still, don’t lose this way (a)
Affection now, for what you guess (b)
May be something more, could be less (b)
Accept my love, live for today. (b)  *First 8 lines are the octave.
Your roses wilted, as love spurned (c)
Yet trust in me, my love and truth (d)
Dwell in my heart, from which you’ve turned (c)
My strength as great as yours aloof. (d)
It is in fear you turn away (a)
And miss the chance of love today! (a)  *Second 6 lines are the sestet.

The last thing I am going to say for now about rhyme scheme is that you might want to consider writing the letters of your rhyme scheme out on the far right side of the page where the end of your line will be, even before you write your poem. You certainly do not have to do this, but I’ve had students over the years find this to be really helpful, particularly when they are first writing out a specific kind of form poem.

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