Ottava Rima

A Form used by Byron, Keats, and Auden

The stanzas in this consist (in English) of eight iambic pentameters rhyming abababcc. A notable use of the form was in Byron's Don Juan. Many consider that this contains some of his finest poetry. It opens with a derisory 'dedication' - he was rude about a number of people in this poem (and elsewhere). He wrote to his friend, Thomas Moore: 'It is dedicated to Southey in good, simple, savage terms, upon the Laureate's politics, and the way he got them'. The first two stanzas read:

I

                    Bob Southey! You're a poet - Poet Laureate,
                         And representative of all the race,
                    Although 'tis true you turned out a Tory at
                         Last, - yours has lately been a common case, -
                    And now, my Epic Renegade! what are ye at?
                         With all the Lakers, in and out of place?
                    A nest of tuneful persons, to my eye?
                    Like 'four and twenty Blackbirds in a pye?

II

                    'Which pye being open'd they began to sing'
                         (This old song and new simile holds good),
                   ' A dainty dish to set before the King',
                         Or Regent, who admires such kind of food; -
                    And Coleridge, too, has lately taken wing,
                         But like a hawk encumber'd with his hood, -
                    Explaining metaphysics to the nation -
                    I wish he would explain his Explanation.

'The Lakers' were the Lake Poets: Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth.


A Note on Formal and Free Verse
Literary Terms
Metre
Triolet

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