C is for Chronological

If my husband is evil, my 15 year old son is downright diabolical.

Patrick: Chernobyl!

Me: What?

Patrick: It’s “C” and I get to pick the “C” word. Your word is “Chernobyl.”

Tim: Chernobyl’s easy —

Patrick: Good point. Chronological. Your word is “Chronological.”

Me: Yeah, yeah, sure, sure

Patrick: AND … a SONNET. I want a SONNET.

Me: Shakespearean or Petrarchan?

Patrick: Um… uh … the one that starts with a P.

Me: Okay.

Patrick: AND … it has to makes SENSE.

Me: Well, duh …

Patrick: To ME.

Tim: You don’t have a hope in hell …

So … can I use “Chronology?” “Chronos?” Can I mix the word up? Well, he didn’t have an answer, but the P-type of Sonnet, also known as a Petrarchan Sonnet, is MUCH EASIER to affect in Italian (hence its OTHER name: Italian Sonnet). The original Petrarchan Sonnet is a total of 14 lines divided into two parts: an octave (that’s 8! Thank GOD for piano lessons!) of 8 lines and a sestet of 6 lines. Are you with me so far? Good. Because now it gets a little weird(er). When I looked up what the bejabbers I’d gotten into, I found:

The rhyme scheme for the octave is typically a b b a a b b a. The sestet is more flexible. Petrarch typically used c d e c d e or c d c d c d for the sestet. Some other possibilities for the sestet include c d d c d d, c d d e c e, or c d d c c d (as in Wordsworth‘s “Nuns Fret Not at Their Convents Narrow Room” poem). This form was used in the earliest English sonnets by Wyatt and others. For background on the pre-English sonnet, see Robert Canary’s web page, The Continental Origins of the Sonnet.[1] In a strict Petrarchan sonnet, the sestet does not end with a couplet (since this would tend to divide the sestet into a quartet and a couplet). However, in Italian sonnets in English, this rule is not always observed, and c d d c e e and c d c d e e are also used.

The octave and sestet have special functions in a Petrarchan sonnet. The octave’s purpose is to introduce a problem, express a desire, reflect on reality, or otherwise present a situation that causes doubt or conflict within the speaker. It usually does this by introducing the problem within its first quatrain (unified four-line section) and developing it in the second. The beginning of the sestet is known as the volta, and it introduces a pronounced change in tone in the sonnet; the change in rhyme scheme marks the turn. The sestet’s purpose as a whole is to make a comment on the problem or to apply a solution to it. The pair are separate but usually used to reinforce a unified argument – they are often compared to two strands of thought organically converging into one argument, rather than a mechanical deduction. Moreover, Petrarch’s own sonnets almost never had a rhyming couplet at the end as this would suggest logical deduction instead of the intended rational correlation of the form.[2]

Poets adopting the Petrarchan sonnet form often adapt the form to their own ends to create various effects. These poets do not necessarily restrict themselves to the strict metrical or rhyme schemes of the traditional Petrarchan form; some use iambic hexameter, while others do not observe the octave-sestet division created by the traditional rhyme scheme. Whatever the changes made by poets exercising artistic license, no “proper” Italian sonnet has more than five different rhymes in it.

Have your eyes glazed over? Mine did. So, I wrote out my supposed rhyming scheme:


and hoped that that would be sufficient….

O, Chronological Curse! That holds us fast

Whilst fragile order pulses blood through brittle veins

And Dissolves tenuous mem’ry,  the lost arcane,

‘Ere Time and Eternity conspire–future, endless impasse.

Heaven’s unbridled ebb, sands caught in shatter’d glass,

The Shard, sharp and cunning, our overlord, sole suzerain,

Who bleeds us of Paradise, unremembered, our mortmain,

And who belies our mortal slide to rest beneath cool grass.

Immortal breath sighs in recollection

As waves of Light and Love, like boundless sea,

And Hope of he who claws and cleaves, hapless detainee,

To shrug away the bonds of form-full void

And rise to heights of long-imagined perfection!

Time, O Chronos, confounded, Immortal Life octroyed.


True. Not a hope in hell my first-born will understand it, but there. A Petrarchan Sonnet based on Chronological and the Death of Time… Happy Hopping!

(and no worries … ain’t NO WAY I’m quittin’ my day job…)

4 Replies to “C is for Chronological”

  1. My eyes did indeed glaze over for a while, and then my English Honors days came rambling back 🙂

    Please consider putting up the Challenge badge so it is easier to identify your participation in the #atozchallenge , and let us have a place to leave our links so you can visit back if you want to 🙂

    Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
    Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  2. Fab!! Glad I did this in my writing course last year though or I would have been completely lost. Would love to hear what your 15yrold thinks of it! Great that your AtoZ is a family affair.

    1. He didn’t get it. ^__^ But that’s okay, I got a “Wow, mom … just … wow.” Which, I guess, from the lips of a 15 year old boy is a rave. Yay!

Comments are closed.