If you would find an explanation for all this, you must recollect that although the delights of poetry are most exquisite, they can be fully understood only by the rarest geniuses, who are careless of wealth and possess a marked contempt for the things of this world, and who are by nature especially endowed with a peculiar elevation and freedom of soul. Consequently, as experience and the authority of the most learned writers agree, in no branch of art can mere industry and application accomplish so little.
recorded sonnets are by Giacomo (or Iacopo) da Lentini, called "il
Notaro" (fl. 1233 - ca. 1245), who was at the court of the Emperor
Frederick II in Sicily (reigned 1220-1250). Giacomo da Lentini is
usually credited with the invention of the sonnet
but Petrarch perfected it. Most of the entries in Il Canzoniere are sonnets.
The Petrarchan sonnet, at least in its Italian-language form, generally follows a set rhyme scheme, which runs as follows: abba abba cdc dcd. The first eight lines, or octave, do not often deviate from the abba abba pattern, but the last six lines, or sestet, frequently follow a different pattern, such as cde cde, cde ced, or cdc dee. Each line also has the same number of syllables, usually 11 or 7 by Petrarch. The English Sonnet has 10 syllables per line.
English Sonnet Timeline
More on Petrarch's Writing
(from yahoo groups by Seth Jerchower)
Petrarch's Italian poems are of the following
wrote most often using the following verses:
hendecasyllables (verses consisting of 11 syllables) and
septenaries (7 syllables). Note that the English sonnet is
based on Iambic Pentameter, a verse consisting of five
stressed feet, classically composed of a short and long
syllable, is not quite the same (in English poetry this
typically yields a 10 syllable verse, although the stresses
are not "quantitative", that is, consisting of
combination of short and long syllables, but "qualitative",
composed of unaccented and accented syllables; many
English verses are truncate, that is, they end on an
accented syllable, which yields 10 syllables: "How do I
love thee? Let me count the ways"; when the accent
falls on the penultimate -- next to last syllable --
the result is 11 syllables "Whether 'tis nobler in
the mind to suffer"). The Italian hendecasyllable
consists of 3 or 4 accented syllables, usually marked by a
distinct pause, called an ictus (a strong ictus can be
seen in the above verse by Elizabeth Barret Browning,
where, if the poem is read with a Trochaic accentuation
(strong/weak stresses), "thee? Let" are both stressed, causing
a sense of pause).
The canzone ("song", of
Provençal origin, is a multi-strophed composition often
alternating between verses of different lengths and with an
elaborate rhyme scheme. Each strophe is composed of two
parts, the "fronte" and the "sirma". In turn, these are
composed of typically two parts, called the "stanza". The
sonnet is, in actuality, an isolated strophe of a
canzone (the first to use this form was Giacomo da
Lentini, a Sicilian poet, around 1230 in the court of
Frederic II). If we take the sonnet as an example of the
canzone's strophe, the following schemes emerge(a capital
letter indicates a hendecasyllable)
A 1st stanza
A 2nd stanza
C 3rd stanza
C 4th stanza
The rhyme scheme can
vary (in the sonnet usually limited to the sirma).
Internal rhyme may also occur. Finally, the canzone is
concluded by several independent verses, often based on the
last stanza of the sirma, called a "congedo". Again,
the canzone takes different forms; Petrarch at his
best breaks away from the Provençal and Sicilian
The sestina is composed of 6 strophes of 6
hendecasyllables in which the final words are repeated in each
strophe, and alternated in such a way that the concluding
word of each strophe is the same as the concluding
word of the first verse of the following, without
repeating the same order. This is concluded by a "congedo"
of 3 verses, in which the original word/rhyme scheme
is repeated internally and at the end of each verse.
This too is of Provençal origin, and was considered
the most challenging scheme.
The ballata (not
to be confused with the romantic ballad, such as
those of Robert Burns) is of Arabic origin (called the
"zarjal", and was introduced through the Provençal
troubadours. As the word suggests, it was originally based on
dance lyrics (< ballar = "to dance"). It may consist
of one or more strophes (all of Petrarch's are of
one strophe). There are different types, depending on
the number of verses
ballata minima: ripresa di un
solo verso più corto dell'endecasillabo
piccola: ripresa (refrain) of one hendecasyllabic verse.
ballata minore: ripresa of 2 hendecasyllabic verses, or
of a hendecasyllable and a septenary.
mezzana: ripresa of 3 hendecasyllabic verses.
grande: ripresa of 4 verses
ripresa of more than 4 versi.
employs the "ballata grande". Like the canzone, the verse
length may vary, but the scheme is somewhat more
Ballata XI del Canzoniere di
Lassare il velo o per sole o per ombra, A
vi vid'io B
poi che in me conoscete il gran desio
ch'ogni altra voglia d'entr'al cor mi sgombra.
Mentr'io portava i be' pensier
ch'ànno la mente desiando morta, D
di pietate ornare il volto; E
ma poi ch'Amor di me vi fece accorta, D
biondi capelli allor velati, C
et l'amoroso sguardo
in se raccolto. E
Quel ch'i' più desiava in voi m'è
sì mi governa il velo F
che per mia morte, et al
caldo et al gielo, F
de' vostr'occhi il dolce lume
Unlike the "canzone" there is no
Finally, the "madrigale", likely of Italian origin,
although the etymology is uncertain (<matrix/mater?
<"mandriale" = referring to a "herd" or "flock", therefore
pastoral? popular?). Petrarch is the first poet to use this
as a literary form, for short, lyrical, pastoral
The scheme he uses is as follows: