Ottava rima

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Ottava rima

Ottava rima: An Italian verse form composed of eight-line stanzas with the rhyme scheme abababcc. Fourteenth-century Florentine poet Giovanni Boccaccio established ottava rima as the primary form for epic and narrative verse in Italy, most notably in Teseide (The Theseid) and Il filostrato (The Lovestruck) (both c. 1340—41); subsequently, sixteenth-century English poet Sir Thomas Wyatt introduced it into English, where iambic pentameter became the dominant meter.

FURTHER EXAMPLES: Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (1516); George Gordon, Lord Byron’s Don Juan (1819—24), a stanza from which follows:

They looked up to the sky, whose floating glow

Spread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;

They gazed upon the glittering sea below,

Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;

They heard the waves splash, and the wind so low,

And saw each other’s dark eyes darting light

Into each other — and, beholding this,

Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss.

Contemporary examples of ottava rima include Fred D’Aguiar’s verse novel Bloodlines (2000) and Wayne Koestenbaum’s lengthy poem Model Homes (2004), comprised of thirteen ottava rima cantos.