2012-08-24

Passion For Poetry


Ottava Rima Stanza

Ottava rima [ot-ahv-a-ree-ma] was a favorite verse form of the Italian Renaissance poets. It developed out of the troubadour tradition and was first popularized by Giovanni Boccaccio. Many of the great Italian epic poems used ottava rima, including Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato, Pulci’s Morgante Maggiore, and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. Originally used for long poems on heroic themes, it also came to be popular in the writing of mock-heroic works.

In appeared in English in Elizabethan translations of Tasso and Ariosto. It was not, in the beginning generally used for original works. The first English poet to write mock-heroic ottava rima was John Hookham Frere, in his 1817 poem Whistlecraft.

This work influenced Byron, who first used ottava rima in the poem Beppo then his epic work Don Juan. He also used the ottava rima for his poem Vision of Judgement. Shelley translated the Homeric Hymns into English using the ottava rima. Yeats used it in several of his poems including Sailing to Byzantium and Among School Children.

The ottava rima stanza in English consists of eight lines, usually in iambic pentameter, although the original Italian had eleven syllables per line. Each stanza consists of three alternate rhymes and one double rhyme, following the a-b-a-b-a-b-c-c pattern. The poem can have as many stanzas as you wish.

Schematic:

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And now, my example:


GARGOYLE

He guards the world from his perch way up high
Remembering, perchance a simpler time
Remembering, perhaps, when he could fly
Before the magic began to decline;
The gods left, unworshiped without knowing why
And poets spent years perfecting a rhyme.
Forever he’s locked in sorrow by stone
and yet he’s done nothing for which to atone.

He remembers the Wild Hunt’s magical ride
And the dancers cavorting under the moon,
The circle of stones and the Green Man’s bride
The sacrifice made, begging a boon;
The ships that sailed with the evening tide
And the tales that would make a maiden swoon.
So much forgotten, so much that is lost.
The world still moves forward and yet at what cost?

Just in case you're curious, here's a link to Byron's poem Don Juan

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