Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sunday Form Challenge - Yeats' Octaves

William Butler Yeats is a poet who needs no introduction. He is considered to be one of the foremost poets of the Twentieth Century. He is firmly established as a modern poet, yet he drew his influences from traditional Irish ballads and songs, writing extensively in rhymed verse. His earlier poems utilized quatrains, but for his later and most famous works, he preferred the octave as a stanza form.

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The Yeats Octave

The basic structure of this 8 line stanza is iambic tetrameter or pentameter (eight or ten syllable lines for those who do not feel comfortable working with meter), with the rhyme scheme:
a b b a c d d c. The poem may then consist of any number of stanzas.

This pattern can be seen in his poem, Two Songs from a Play, which explores the end of Greek paganism. I have reproduced the first stanza here.

I saw a staring virgin stand
Where holy Dionysus died,
And tear the heart out of his side.
And lay the heart upon her hand
And bear that beating heart away;
And then did all the Muses sing
Of Magnus Annus at the spring,
As though God's death were but a play.

Ottava Rima

Yeats worked extensively with Ottava Rima in his later work. The significant difference between this and the previous octave form is the rhyme scheme, which is a b a b a b c c. Iambic pentameter is the favoured meter. This structure forms the basis of the stanzas in many of his poems, including Sailing to Byzantium.

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees —
Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

Our challenge this weekend is to create a poem, using either octave forms, of between one and four stanzas. The format challenge is posted on Saturday to allow for an extended period of time to work on a new poem. The Linky remains open, but you may prefer to link up on Monday instead. Please provide a link back to this challenge, if you do so. Only poems written specifically for this challenge may be linked up to this post.


Anonymous said...

Great challenge, Kerry. K.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Thanks,Karin. Friends, I will be out for the day tomorrow but I do have Monday off from work, so forgive me if my comments are a little delayed. I am working on my own piece, which I hope to have posted before Sunday. Poetry is not coming to me very easily at present, so this sounds a little forced to me... still ironing out the creases and trying to complete the final couplet.

hedgewitch said...

One of my favorite poets, Kerry, and a form I have found very challenging in the past. Having some of my periodic back trouble atm, but if possible I will try to skim something out of the cauldron when I can.

Kay L. Davies said...

Kerry, I'm excited about this challenge. And reassured (although I would never wish it upon you) not to be the only one to whom poetry isn't coming easily at present.
Yeats is wonderful. I love his Irishness, and the influence of the Irish ballads on his work, and I am glad I already have my Monday poem written, so I can concentrate on (I hope) octaves.
Luv, K

brudberg said...

Wonderful to come here.. I wrote one in a haste.. I hope I got through in a brief octave.

Grace said...

Thanks for the challenge Kerry ~ Been a long day for me as we are preparing for Father's Day Celebration tomorrow ~

Wishing you all happy weekend ~

Anonymous said...

Hey Kerry--Looking forward to seeing yours and everyone's--I'm sure creases are catching great things in their folds--and Joy, hope you are feeling better.

I really wanted to do something more personal somehow--and lyrical--but mine did not come out that way at all--it's a bit odd, but have to go with what comes. Thanks. k.

humbird said...

Thanks for challenge, Kerry! It was not easy...

Sumana Roy said...

thanks for the challenge
gave me some precious time...

Fireblossom said...

The Yeats Octave, its hour come 'round at last...

Unknown said...

the octave i could barely build!! but I love Yeats poems!!

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Excellent challenge. Thank you Kerry.
Anna :o]

Hannah said...

That was fun at the end of a long sunny day!! Thank you, Kerry!

Happy Father's Day to all the papa poets out there!

Jim said...

I enjoyed working with this, Kerry. I have been missing on rhyme of late, it is nice to be back at some.

Since I came late I may list it with the Open Link tomorrow also.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hedgewitch said...

Late to the party, as always, but couldn't resist.