Lesson no 9

The Sonnet.
In this chapter we are going to discuss a strict form which have plaid
a certain role in the World’s literature. Also the villanelle and the Sappho’s strophes and many other strict forms should be represented, but all can’t get a place in this lesson.
First the Sonnet, one of the most used of the genres. It is of course of special
interest as it has been a front figure almost the whole time from its beginning in the 13th century. It is with the Italian poet Francesco Petrarca (1304-13749)the poem form of the sonnet starts to grow. The form in itself has probably been created ca 50 years earlier, but it is his sonnets, later poets refer to. His fame comes from the collection (Rerum vulgarum fragmenta) which Petrarca worked with to the last year before his death. Later called ( Il Canzoniere )The songbook.
This collection contents 317 sonnets written to the woman Laura, who Petrarca seemed to have met in Provence 1327 and she died in the plague 1348, a woman
Petrarca loved deeply his whole life. From Canzoniere we refer to the sonnet no 90, just to show the strict form and some signs we can point out without being able to understand it completely.

Erano I capei d´oro a l`aura sparsi
che`n mille dolci nodi gli avolgea,
e`l vago lume oltra misura ardea
di quei begli occhi, ch`or ne son si scarsi.

e`l viso di pietosi color `farsi,
non so se vero o falso, mi parea:
i`che l`ésca amorosa al petto avea,
qual meraviglia se di súbito arsi?

Non erà l`andar suo cosa mortale,
ma d`angelica forma; et le parole
sonavan altro,che pur voce humana.

Un spirto celeste, un vivo sole
fu quel ch `i vidi; et se non fosse or tale,
piagha per allentar d`arco non sana.

Petrarca used often the following rhyme scheme abba abba ( a so called chiastic rhyme) and sometimes also abab abab ( a cross rhyme) the first two stanzas called the quartet or as a whole the octave, and cde cde, or cdc dcd in the terzin( the whole as a sextet ) In the sonnet we have chosen here is the rhyme different ( cde and dce)which gives a terzin structure but not a fully chain rhyme. This is not so strange cause there are 66 such sonnets, showing that the flexibility is rather big especially in the terzin.
Within the different nationalities there are also different standards for the sonnet. In the Italian sonnet the couple of rhymes are avoided in the terzin, and also in the French sonnet, the terzin is to have different rhymes comparing to the quartet.
The origin of the Sonnet could be Sicily or perhaps Provence and has got its form at least 750 years before Petrarca started to use it. The Sonnet was very easy to adapt in big parts of the World, exceptions for the Far East and
the Arab countries, and although we can find it in such countries as India, Turkey Greece, Spain, Finland Peru, only for mentioning some of them.
During the Age of Enlightenment, the sonnet was seen upon as too schematic and the inner tension which must arise every time a new word of rhyme appeared, became a riddle. The thought about how the new rhyming word should appear and with what tune it should meet comparing to the rhyming word before, was also a question. In the quartet the thought, turning to the rhyming word in next stanza or the stanza before, creates different rhythms, of one short and one longer expectations of tension.
The influence from Petrarca was enormous during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries and also during the 18th century in Europe.
The Petrarchan sonnet was also in England the most used, and from this developed the two head traditions of Sonnets.
The difference between the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearian is not great
but important. The Shakespearian sonnet looks like, (4+4+4+2)the last two strophes make a couplet.
In the Spencer sonnets the three quartets are put together and the second strophe is bringing forth a rhyme from the first strophe, and the third strophe from the second one. The English language cannot use any conjugational endings as in the Italian language for rhyming, which means that the English sonnet has more rhymes in comparison to the Italian ones.
The Italian sonnet creates two obvious parts. The quartets are having a commonly compact and closed scheme, with a tight weaving sound. The terzin can be more variable in rhyming. Three rhymes in six verses, but only two in eight verses of the quartets. In the quartets you are also expecting some changing of the theme called ( a volta) and it is this (volta) which is the important sign for a sonnet to show the rhythm of the thoughts, which should be as a demonstration and conclusion for all sonnets.
If this demand is ignored, the sonnet will lose its theme and form. In many modern sonnets we can’t find an order in the structure between the strict form and a language which is cutting off the traditional conventions.
We can therefore say that the sonnet has a intellectual tendency, which we can call dialectic, where the thought is divided into sequences standing in opposition to each other. We can summon up the central signs for the sonnet
as : (4 stanzas, a strict rhyme structure, asymmetric length of the strophes, and a
well noted dividing into two of the scheme)
I will go back for a moment to our sonnet no 90 in the Petrarca Canzoniere.
In the first stanza we can note the word ” l`aura” which means the wave of the wind. You cannot avoid to think of the receiver LAURA. This parallel is well thought about and come back in many of the poems of Canzoniere. This form of word and sound play, is called “Paranomasia”. In the Petrarchan paronomasia it gives an effect of “Homonymie”. The words sound equally, but are written differently and have also a different meaning. There are many other phenomenon in this sonnet. As an example of sound structures we have between the first and third lines “worries” , (oltra) and (ura) a sort of rhyme creating a new structure but no end rhyming. The word “avolgea” is coming back in another form as “e´l vago” in line 3.
Already in 1332 did Antono da Tempo write 15 different forms of sonnets which could be the first theory about this subject.
The connection of “avolgea-e´l vago shows a variation form which da Tempo called “sonettus incatenatus ” which takes up a rhyme from one line and let the next line starts with the same.
The mentioned assonance ( the repeating of vowel sounds in nearby words) shows that Petrarca really weaved his sonnets with great skill.
Lope de Vega writes a sonnet with verses from Horatio, Petrarca, Tasso, Ariosto, Serafino, Camoes and Boscan , a teqnique which could be recognized as a “collage in the art of pictures” and in literature , in music a “sampling”.
And back again to sonnet no 90 regarding the volta. The word “Non” is not so much a turn in the poem but put a line in the characteristics of Laura. She will almost be seen upon as superior. Subtle is the hearing sound which we can observe in the words ” Non era” and in the opening word “Erano”.

I think we have to stop here with the sonnet and Petrarca, at least for today.
There are so much more to discuss about sonnets, but to make it understandable and easy to learn, we have to restrict the subject and let the mind rest for some

©kerstin centervall