History of the Sonnet — A Brief Compilation

Chapter One

The first thing that comes to our mind while dealing with sonnets is tradition and structure. Had the Italian and Occitan languages not existed or created perhaps the Literary minded people would not have been able to muse over, criticize and create literature through the popular well-known genre of poetry which we call as Sonnet. Not a single era of poetics can be imagined without the creation of complex Sonnets along with its several postulates that had served as food for the poetry worms of the concerned period. Starting from the sonneteer Giacomo da Lentini, the head of Sicilian school under Frederick-II in the 13th century who wrote about 300 sonnets to Derozio in the 20th century who changed the traditional form of sonnets of 8-6 format into 7-7 format, this form of poetry has been one of the most lucrative genus of literature for mythical experiments down the ages. If we compare sonnet with other poetic forms from the philosophical, thematic and aesthetical point of view, it does not create a notable difference but where the forte of Sonnets lies is in its structure. All the experiments on sonnet has been with its structures like rhyming pattern, division of stanzas, number of lines etc. Critics say the mathematics involved with sonnet often curtails one’s freedom of expression. This is one of the main reasons that make the usage of sonnet intricate.

“The creator of Sonnet” is still an issue of argument though Petrarch has been widely accepted as the father of Sonnet as the most popular but not ancient Sonneteer among the early sonnet writers like Giacomo da Lentini, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) and Guido Cavalcanti (c. 1250–1300). The Petrarchan sonnets refer to a concept unattainable love and depicted a lady as a source of inspiration. All his Sonnets were dedicated to Laura. The inventor of Italian sonnet was Giacomo. The Italian or Petrarchan Sonnets were divided into Octet (Containing two quatrains) and Sestet (Containing two tercets).The octet presented a problem and the ninth line created a transition from pessimistic note in the first 8 lines to a hopeful note in the sestet. This was taken as standard and is still called as traditional form of Sonnet. Because of the structure of Italian, the rhyme scheme of the Petrarchan sonnet is more easily fulfilled in that language than in English. The first eight lines create an octave, with the rhyme scheme a b b a a b b a. The last six lines make up a sestet and may consist of following rhyme schemes: 1) c d d c d d 2) c d e c d e 3) c d c d c d 4) c d d c e e. In the sonnets of Giacomo da Lentini, the octave rhymed a-b-a-b, a-b-a-b; later, the a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a pattern became the standard for Italian sonnets. For the sestet there were two different possibilities, c-d-e-c-d-e and c-d-c-c-d-c. In time, other variants on this rhyming scheme were introduced such as c-d-c-d-c-d. In course of time many poets have exercised their poetic or artistic license to create different forms of sonnets taking liberties from various restrictions of Petrarchan Sonnets but a serious point to observe is that no other forms had more than 5 different rhythms in it.

Sonnet Mondal has authored seven books of poetry. He was bestowed Poet Laureate from Bombadil Publishing, Sweden in 2009 and has been featured in several publications including The Penguin Review, Istanbul Literary Review, World Poets Quarterly, Friction Magazine, The Stremez and International Gallerie Magazine, among others . He was inducted in the prestigious Significant Achievements Plaque at the Museum of Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, nominated for Pushcart Prize in 2011, and was featured as one of the Famous Five of Bengali youths by India Today magazine in 2010. At present he is the managing editor of The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Poetry editor of The Abandoned Towers Magazine, Editor of Best Poems Encyclopedia and the Sub Secretary General of Poetas Del Mundo. This is his first feature in Marco Polo.

© Copyright Sonnet Mondal 2012

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