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 "The Petrarchan sonnet, also called the Italian sonnet,
originated in thirteenth-century Italy and was associated
with the Italian poet Petrarch (Italian name, Francesco
Petrarca; 1304-74). The fourteen-line poem is divided
into two parts: the first eight lines rhyme abbaabba and
the remaining six lines rhyme cdecde.
    Born the son of a notary in Florence, Petrarch spent
most of his life in Provence. He travelled throughout
Europe and is particularly noted for Canzoniere, a series
of love poems addressed to Laura, and also his humanist
and spiritual writings. In 1341 he was crowned poet
laureate in Rome."

(Martin H. Manser, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Eponyms;
Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Cumberland house, Hertforshire SG)

   The word "sonnet" comes from the Italian sonnetto,
"a little sound", and until the early-seventeenth century
meant any short lyric poem; but the particular form used
by Petrarch--fourteen lines divided into an octave (or
octet) of two quatrains linked by rhyme, abbaabba, and
a sestet usually of two tercets linked by rhyme, such as
cdecde or cdedce or cdeedc--slowly became a restrictive
norm, the Petrarchan sonnet.  It was (and is) normal to
have a turn between octave and sestet, producing a
tangential relationship between the parts or giving a degree
of spin to the whole; and the asymmetric 8-6 form proved
flexible and satisfying, as did the internal strucure of each
part, the octave readable as two quatrains (abba-abba)
or three couplets with binding rhymes fore-and-aft
(a-bb-aa-bb-a), and the sestet variable at need."
(The Poetry Handbook, John Lennard, Oxford University
Press, New York NY.)


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