Welcome to week 4 in our study of sonnetinas, or “little songs.” We are counting down from the Sonnetina Cinque, Sonnetina Quattro, and Sonnetina Tre. All of these forms have quite a bit of flexibility within the general framework, and you will find that the Sonnetina Due is no different in that regard.
The Sonnetina Due is a bit mysterious to me, for I’ve found some conflicting information regarding this form. All sources agree that the Sonnetina Due is formed from five couplets, but the conflict comes with the rhyme scheme. Some say it has a rhyme scheme of aabbccddee, while other sources say that rhyming is optional, and that any couplet form may be used. For the sake of my tutorial, I am going to side with those who allow any form of couplet, and that your choices for rhyme are either the rhyme scheme above or no rhyme at all. After all, as I worked with the following the couplets, such was the pattern that developed.
Since the couplet is the foundation for the Sonnetina Due, let’s look at some couplets. The couplet may be classified by its type and by its form. You will also see the words iambic and trochaic used below. If you don’t remember what they are, you may refer back to my earlier article, The Nuts and Bolts of Poetry.
- Closed couplet — a poetic unit of 2 lines that expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a poem in its own right. Meter and rhyme are at the poet’s discretion.
- Open couplet — a couplet that cannot stand alone or does not express a complete thought. The endings are enjambed (i.e. commas or no punctuation at all), allowing the thought to continue to the next line.
- Short couplet — two rhyming lines written in iambic or trochaic tetrameter (8 syllables)
- Heroic couplet — a rhyming couplet written in iambic pentameter (10 syllables). It may be either open or closed.
- Shakespearean couplet — a closed heroic couplet that summarizes the theme of the entire poem.
- Alexandrine couplet — two rhymed lines of iambic hexameter (12 syllables)
- Split couplet — rhymed 2-line form with the first line in iambic pentameter (10 syllables) and the second line in iambic dimeter (4 syllables).
- Alpha couplet — The first line is formed from four words that all begin with the same letter. The second line rhymes with the first and has the same meter. The final word of all lines must be a noun.
- Chinese [antithetical] couplet — When written in Chinese, both lines must have the same number of characters, with one character per word; the tone pattern of one line must be the inverse of the other. The meanings of the two lines must be related, as must the corresponding characters. In English, each line must have the same number of words, and each word in line 1 should correspond in meaning and grammar to the words in line 2, with line 2 creating a counterpoint to line 1. Rhyme is optional.
- Rhophalic couplet — a poem in which the nth word of each line has n syllables. For example, the first word has 1 syllable, the second word has 2 syllables, etc. There is no limit to line length, and rhyme is not required.
- Seven-eleven couplet — Stanzaic, with any number of rhyming couplets. Each couplet has a line length of 7 or 11 syllables, in any possible combination (i.e. 7-7, 7-11, 11-11, 11-7). The only stipulation is that lines 6 and 11 (if there is one) are always 11 syllables.
There may well be more, but these are the forms I have come across up to this point. And to be honest, I think we have plenty to work with right here.
In summary, the Sonnetina Due is:
- A decastich (10-line poem) written in five couplets, usually with no spaces between.
- There is no set line length or rhythm, although they are usually written in iambic tetrameter or pentameter.
- They may be unrhymed, but if rhymed, the rhyme scheme is aabbccddee.