A poetry or stanza of eight lines See also ottava rima and triolet. An "octave" is the opening eight lines of an Italian or Petrarchian sonnet. The term comes from the fact that these lines are written in octaves (eights) of four syllables.
Why do some poems consist of only eight lines? Because when people started writing longer poems, they would divide them into sections called "books", and a book must have a closed end. Since a full stop (.) at the end of a sentence signals the end of a thought, it made sense to use it as a marker for the end of a poem too. Thus, the eight-line poem was born. Although today we might call these poems "sonnets", that name didn't exist back then. These poems were simply called "eight-line poems" or "octaves".
People still write eight-line poems today for various reasons. One reason is that this number has special meaning for poets. It's a perfect number: any multiple of itself (i.e., 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.) can be used as a template for creating more eight-line poems. For example, since 32 = 4 × 8, we could write four eight-line poems based on the template of one 32-line poem.
The sonnet is divided into two stanzas: the "octave" or "octet" (of eight lines) and the "sestet" (of six lines), for a total of fourteen lines. The octave usually introduces the issue or dilemma with an ABBAABBA rhyme pattern. The sestet resolves or concludes the dilemma or issue.
An octave is a part of a poem, song, or musical composition that contains eight lines, as do most sonnets. The term comes from the Italian word ottava, meaning "eighth". Because medieval poets did not use punctuation, octaves were often separated by long passages of blank verse or prose. Today, modern poets usually divide their poems into sections, using brackets or other methods. These sections do not have fixed numbers of lines like sonnets; instead, they are termed "strokes". Many modern poems are composed of three "strokes": a prologue, which may be followed by an octave and a coda.
Sonnets share some characteristics with quatrains. Both consist of an eight-line structure called an "stanza", which some writers call a "quatrain". A sonnet's hendecasyllable is usually based on the English language syllabic count (which varies between 14 and 19), while a quatrain's line length is usually based on the Spanish language syllabic count (which varies between 10 and 12).
The Italian poet Petrarch created the Petrarchan sonnet, which splits the 14 lines into two sections: an eight-line stanza (octave) rhyming ABBAABBA, and a six-line stanza (sestet) rhyming CDCDCD or CDECDE. The form was later popularized by English poets John Donne and William Shakespeare.
Petrarch's sonnets were influential in launching the Renaissance. They are still read today for their delicate language and thoughtful poetry.
In addition to the octave/sestet structure, several other rhyming schemes have been used throughout history for different purposes. The couplet, which consists of two lines of two syllables each, has been widely adopted as a conventional poetic unit since antiquity. It is found in many classic poems, including Horace's odes and Virgil's Eclogues.
The tercet is three lines of three syllables each. It is used by Milton in his Paradise Lost to represent individual words within the context of a larger sentence. The termcet also appears in some modern poems written in free verse.
The quatrain is four lines of two syllables each. It is often used by poets to describe a person because the word "quatrain" comes from a Latin phrase meaning "four-lined scroll", which refers to the form of old manuscripts.
The first eight lines of a typical Italian sonnet, known as the octave, describe a difficulty, inquiry, or personal concern. The final six lines, or sestet, resolve the dilemma or answer the question posed in the octave. The rhyme scheme of the set might change. Some sonnets use iambic pentameter but others employ various other meters.
An example of a sonnet with an octave and a sestet follows:
Love is too young to be so old, Age to age does not match the days that pass. Young love requires time to grow up Old love needs time to rest upon itself.
So, love is both young and old, like age itself. It begins small and grows as it develops over time. This is why love feels so overwhelming at first look or even from across the room; it's such a strong emotion that it can't help but show itself immediately. As the saying goes, "Happiness is self-love, which no one can teach you." You have to learn it for yourself.
Now that you know what an octave and a sestet are, you can look at your own poems and see if they include them. If they don't, try writing some!
An eight-day span of celebrations commencing with a festival day 2a: an eight-line stanza: ottava rima b: the opening eight lines of an Italian sonnet 3a: a musical interval of eight diatonic degrees. 4a: a group of individuals or organizations sharing similar interests or activities: an eight-member board of directors.
Octaves are the most common form of scale used in music. An octave consists of eight notes, which are played in two pairs of three notes each. The melody note of each pair is called a triad. The sound of one triad is called a chord. Thus, an octave contains eight chords: four major and four minor.
The key to understanding how an octave is constructed is to realize that it is based on the relationship between the tonic and its relative major/minor. These are the only two possibilities for any single tone. All other combinations can be derived from them by adding or subtracting whole steps or half steps. A step is the smallest unit of distance between two notes on a string instrument. It may be either a full step (between two adjacent strings) or a half step (between one string and the next string down).
In music, especially vocal music, it is very common to use sequences of notes that repeat themselves after some initial variation or alteration.
Petrarch's Sonnets The major distinction between a Shakespearean sonnet and a Petrarchan sonnet is the arrangement of the poem's 14 lines. The Petrarchan sonnet mixes an octave (eight lines) with a sestet rather than quatrains (six lines).
Shakespeare's sonnets are usually described as Petrarchan because they mix an octave with a sestet, just like many of Petrarch's poems. However, there are some differences between Shakespeare's sonnets and many of Petrarch's works. First, most Shakespearean sonnets have three quatrains followed by two pairs of tercets, while many of Petrarch's sonnets have four tercets in total. Also, unlike many of Petrarch's sonnets that address a single person, almost all of Shakespeare's sonnets deal with love or poetry. Finally, although not all of them do, many of Shakespeare's sonnets use iambic pentameter—the five-beat line characteristic of classical English verse—while most of Petrarch's sonnets use iambic tetrameter—the four-beat line typical of medieval English poetry.
In addition to mixing an octave with a sestet, many of Shakespeare's sonnets also include a trio of quatrains. These three groups of four lines each are called "staves" or parts of the sonnet.