Ottava rima poetry originated in the 14th century thanks to Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio. He played a significant role in developing this unique form of poetry through his influential works. Ottava rima consists of stanzas made up of eight lines, usually with a rhyme scheme of ABABABCC.
This poetic style spread beyond Italy and became popular in English literature during the Renaissance. Its structured form and rhythmic pattern made it a favoured choice among poets.
Famous examples of ottava rima include Lord Byron’s narrative poem “Don Juan,” where he employed this form to tell the adventures of the protagonist. Additionally, Alexander Pushkin, a renowned Russian poet, used ottava rima in his work “Eugene Onegin,” contributing to its widespread popularity in different languages and cultures.
The use of ottava rima continued to evolve over time, with various poets experimenting and incorporating it into their compositions. Its versatility allows poets to explore diverse themes and narratives within the confines of its structured framework, making it an enduring and adaptable form of poetry in literary history.
What Is Ottava Rima Poetry?
Ottava rima poems are a type of poetry that comes from Italy. Each poem has eight lines in a stanza, and they follow a specific rhyme pattern: ABABABCC. These poems were mostly used for big stories or tales about heroes and adventures. They were popular in epic poetry.
Thomas Wyatt, an English politician and poet, found these Italian stanza patterns interesting. He translated them into English poems. After that, people started using this style to write funny and sarcastic poems too. For instance, John Hookham Frere wrote “The Monks and the Giants,” and Lord Byron penned “Don Juan” using ottava rima.
These poems became known for their structure—how they were set up with the lines and rhymes. They allowed poets to tell long stories or make fun of serious things. They were kind of like a framework that lets writers play with different ideas and tones. People liked ottava rima for its versatility—it could handle both serious and funny topics, giving poets a lot of freedom to express themselves.
Rhyme Scheme and Structure of Ottava Rima Poetry
Ottava Rima poetry is composed of stanzas that contain eight lines each. The rhyme scheme typically follows an ABABABCC pattern, where the first six lines alternate in their rhyming until the final two lines form a couplet with a double rhyme. Each line in this type of poem usually contains 10 syllables, employing iambic pentameter, though, in certain translations, 11 syllables might be utilized.
These poems can be standalone with just one stanza or can be composed of multiple stanzas, allowing for a wide range of tones and themes. Renowned poets have employed ottava rima to create heartfelt and intense works, while others have utilized it to satirize or playfully mock the conventions of the genre itself.
For instance, Lord Byron, a notable figure in poetry, used ottava rima in his renowned work “Don Juan,” where he blended seriousness with humour, showcasing the versatility of this poetic form. The structure’s flexibility allows poets to experiment with various themes, tones, and emotions within the confines of this rhythmic and structured framework.
Ottava Rima 5 Notable Poems
Ottava rima is a poetic form characterized by its structure of eight-line stanzas with a specific rhyme scheme (ABABABCC). It has been employed across various literary works, ranging from serious narratives to humorous and satirical compositions. Exploring five distinctive examples provides insight into this poetic form and its diverse applications.
This playful and humorous poem serves as a satire of Arthurian tales. Through wit and jest, Frere parodies the legendary stories of King Arthur and his knights, offering a lighthearted perspective on the well-known legends.
Before creating his famous mock epic “Don Juan,” Byron crafted the satirical poem “Beppo.” It subverts the typical narrative by transforming the titular character from a womanizer into someone easily swayed by women. Through irony and mockery, Byron critiques societal norms and stereotypes.
Offering a private glimpse into Yeats’s personal reflections on memories, this poem delves into themes of ageing, youth, and the passage of time. In a different vein, Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” metaphorically explores a spiritual journey, reflecting on the quest for immortality and artistic transcendence.
Keats draws inspiration from Boccaccio’s character to weave a macabre tale of romance and pride within the ottava rima structure. This tragic narrative unfolds in a series of eight-line stanzas, exploring themes of love, betrayal, and the consequences of unchecked passion.
Shelley’s poem unfolds as a fanciful and abstract utopian tale across 78 ottava rima stanzas. Through vivid imagery and imaginative storytelling, Shelley crafts a narrative that navigates the realms of fantasy, exploring themes of magic, beauty, and the human experience.