Meet The Ottava Rima Poem

Ottava Rima Unveiled: Explore a New Poem Series

Last week’s article introduced the Cinquain poem. I hope you had a little fun writing a few of these beautiful gems. To showcase the works created from these series, I added a new feature for our writing member community. Pieces derived from the series will have the opportunity of being featured here on Written Tales and our substack site.

To submit your prose from last week’s cinquain introduction or this article, subscribe and join us in the writing adventure.

The Poetic Form

With this introduction, let’s explore the intriguing poetic form, the Ottava Rima. In the late 13th and 14th century the format emerged from its Italian roots and spread across Spain and Portugal. Later, it found its way to England. Giovanni Boccaccio, a renowned writer and poet, played an influential role in establishing and popularizing the Ottava Rima in the 1300s because of its vast array of themes. They include religious motifs, heroic epics, cultural events, and adventure. Poets, the world over, embrace this versatile poetic form. It allows their creativity to flow while engaging their readers with its captivating structure.

Giovanni Boccaccio’s literary legacy extends beyond his contributions to the Ottava Rima. Born in 1313 in Certaldo, Italy, he experienced a diverse lifestyle. With his deep understanding of human emotions and intricacies, he created one of his most influential works, “The Decameron.” This collection, written in the early 14th century, showcased his storytelling ability and brought him widespread recognition. Throughout his life, he composed numerous literary works. They included poetry, prose, and historical narratives, which showcased his versatility as a writer. Centuries after his passing, his work continues to inspire many with his profound observations into the human condition.

A little fun fact:

In Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” it’s said that the Purgatorio section of the poem features the Ottava Rima structure with the rhyming schema of aba, bcb, cdc, etc. But most of it is written in the terza rima form. Leave a comment if you would like an introduction.

The Ottava Rima

The Ottava Rima consists of an 8-line stanza with 10-11 syllables. Each line must contain the same syllable count. The rhyming pattern for a single stanza poem follows: A B A B A B C C.

If more than one stanza, the pattern changes:


And it continues in the same fashion with each additional stanza.

When writing in this form, be careful of the words used for rhyme. Words ending in “ly” make it easier.

Example 1.

A crystal palace sat atop a hill,
Secluded from society with trees.
A technique the Japanese did instill
When men did murder in the third degree;
In the moat, non-tame beast waited to kill;
In which implied a savage killing spree.
And when they were done a clone would become
Ungodly excrement of human scum.

Heaven forbids if these men were alive,
The menagerie would start their next feast.
But thanks be to God they did not survive;
Rough as their fight may have been, they decreased.
They meditate; their souls begin to thrive
Round their obelisk where they lay deceased.
And even in death where their bodies rest,
The beast are seen possessed, from the hill crest.

by Kev, two stanza poem.

The pattern in the first rhymes hill, instill and kill on lines 1, 3, and 5. Line 2, 4, and 6 uses trees, degree, and spree. Lines 7 and 8 use become and scum. Each line employs a 10-syllable count.

If you’re up to it, I challenge you to write one and submit your poetic creation. If you accept, use the phrase “Ottava Rima” for the name of the series in the form.

Leave a comment, as I enjoy hearing from each of you.

Happy Writing!

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