Thursday, January 28, 2010

Iambic Pentameter

I had recently posted what I call my first attempt at Italian sonnet, on one of the groups on Facebook. The poem was titled "A lonely road" (you can check it out here on my blog). And based on the comments and discussion that followed, I realized that it was not exactly a sonnet.

An Italian sonnet is characterized by the following 3 attributes:

1. Form - A sonnet is fundamentally a dialectical construct which allows the poet to examine the nature and ramifications of two usually contrastive ideas, emotions, states of mind, beliefs, actions, events, images, etc., by juxtaposing the two against each other, and possibly resolving or just revealing the tensions created and operative between the two.

2. Rhyming scheme - The Italian sonnet is divided into two sections by two different groups of rhyming sounds. The first 8 lines is called the octave and rhymes as follows:
a b b a a b b a
The remaining 6 lines is called the sestet and can have either two or three rhyming sounds, arranged in a variety of ways:
c d c d c d
c d d c d c
c d e c d e
c d e c e d
c d c e d c

3. Iambic Pentameter - This is another important characteristic of an Italian sonnet. Iambic pentameter is one of many meters used in poetry and drama. It describes a particular rhythm that the words establish in each line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called "feet". The word "iambic" describes the type of foot that is used. The word "pentameter" indicates that a line has five of these "feet".
An iambic foot is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. And a line of iambic pentameter is five iambic feet in a row:

While my original poem did have the first two attributes of an Italian sonnet as mentioned above, the third one was missing i.e. it lacked in an iambic pentameter. The poem had a proper rhyming scheme i.e. abbaabba cdecde. It also had a style wherein the first 8 lines posed a problem while the next 6 bore the solution. However, if you observe the rhythm of this poem, it would not be what you expect from an Italian sonnet. And thats because the number of syllables in each of the lines is different, which ideally should have been 10 per line.

I would like to thank Jaime Birch, Andy Morley and Alan Nettleton for letting me know where I was wrong and helping me out on the usage of iambic pentameter. And based on their suggestion, I have made some quick modifications to my original poem so as to make it sound like a real Italian sonnet in rhythm as well. Though I have made use of a pentameter in the new version, it still isn't iambic.

Here it goes:

Heavenly abode is what they all seek,
Through the blazing hells of fire, pass I must.
The road I walk is laid in thorns and dust.
Though the destination appears so bleak,
In tormenting pain I must neither creak,
Nor waver in desire or carnal lust.
In tempest and rains of doom, those who rust,
Are the ones whose lives, as ever end meek.

His name to my lips seems forever glued
Until to the end of desert I reach,
And where awaiting me stands my reward.
My contented eyes see what they pursued,
Since eterne, what they always did beseech.
Its the beautiful sunset boulevard.

As can be observed from the rhythm of this poem, just one of the lines contains an iambic pentameter, although all contain 10 syllables each. The line is: "The road I walk is laid in thorns and dust"

I guess I still have miles to go before I write a true Italian sonnet.

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