(Italian, "little song")

In the Renaissance, a brief song or lyric of indeterminate rhyme scheme, but also a 14-line poem patterned on forms popularized by Petrarch, Wyatt, Surrey, Spenser, and Shakespeare. Samuel Johnson (1755) glossed his definition, "It is not very suitable to the English language, and has not been used by any man of eminence since Milton."

  • Caudate sonnet: codas or tails are added to the 14-line poem. An example is John Milton's "On the New Forces of Conscience under the Long Parliament."


  • Curtal sonnet: a short sonnet devised by Gerard Manley Hopkins that maintains the proportions of the Italian form (6:4.5 to 8:6), substituting two six-stress tercets for two quatrains in the octave (rhyming abc abc), and four-and-a-half lines for the sestet (rhyming dcbdc), also six-stress except for the final three-stress line. Examples are his poems "Peace" and "Pied Beauty."


  • English (or Shakespearean) sonnet: the Englished form of the Italian sonnet, developed by Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, earl of Surrey with three quatrains and a concluding couplet, with the scheme abab cdcd efef gg .


  • Italian: a fourteen-line poem with two sections, an octave (eight-line stanza rhyming abbaabba), and a sestet (six-line-stanza rhyming cddc ee), an Englished variant of the Petrachan. Examples include Sir Thomas Wyatt's "Whoso List to Hunt, I Know Where is an Hind" and John Donne's "If Poisonous Minerals, and If that Tree."


  • Petrachan: a fourteen-line poem with two sections, an octave (eight-line stanza rhyming abbaabba), and a sestet (six-line-stanza rhyming cdcdcd or cdecde). Examples are John Milton's "When I Consider How my Light is Spent" (typical of his practice, this sonnet does not divide its thought between the octave and the sestet) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee," and William Wordsworth's "The World is Too Much with Us."


  • Reverse sonnet: a comic form invented in Wilfred Owens' sonnet "Hand trembling towards hand," which starts with the couplet rather than ending with it.


  • Sonnet redoublé: fifteen sonnets, of which the last consists of all the repeated lines linking the other fourteen sonnets, in the same order in which they have appeared.


  • Sonnet sequence: a group of sonnets sharing the same subject matter and sometimes a dramatic situation and persona. Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and W. H. Auden have written among the greatest sonnet sequences.


  • Spenserian sonnet: a fourteen-line poem developed by Edmund Spenser in his Amoretti that varies the English form by interlocking the three quatrains, abab bcbc cdcd ee


  • Stretched sonnet: one extended to sixteen or more lines, such as George Meredith's "Modern Love."


  • Submerged sonnet: a sonnet hidden inside a longer poetic work, such as lines 235-48 of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.


  • Tail rhyme: a stanza that has an extra short line (a tail, a tag) that rhymes with another such line. Cf. bob and wheel.

See also Corona.