Italian sonnet: A Lover and His Lass

He parks the truck, then takes her by the hand.
They walk together round the field. The bright
March sun strikes silver from the sward; his white
Lambs, soft as new-baked loaves, awake the land
And hope within them. He shares all his grand
Schemes for the flock: she leans on him, the light
Of love strong in her eyes, and holds him tight,
Mind filled with home and children she’s got planned.
Does it occur to them that they may see
Their cloudless heaven ripped by sudden storm
Their high ideals hurled down and smashed like glass?
No thought of this. Not here, not now. They’re free
To dream. The sky is clear, the sun is warm
And smiling on the lover and his lass.


Tom Davis challenged me to write an Italian sonnet, so I have! This is a very ancient form, ‘invented’ by the Italian poet Petrarch: indeed, it’s often called the Petrarchan sonnet in his honour. I’ve never written one before, and now I know why. The rhyme scheme is complex: the first eight lines (the octave) are a non-negotiable ABBAABBA; the last six lines (the sestet) can be one of several patterns (I’ve gone with a traditional CDECDE) the only proviso being that (unlike the more familiar Shakespearian and Spenserian forms) it mustn’t end with a rhyming couplet. Sheesh.
Even here, though, I can’t let Shakespeare go entirely, having stolen my title from Much Ado About Nothing. I spotted the lover and lass in question while out on my bike this morning: I couldn’t actually hear what they were talking about, but that’s what artistic licence is for. N.

6 thoughts on “Italian sonnet: A Lover and His Lass

  1. Nick, I’m afraid your Italian outdoes mine by quite a bit. I’ll post mine tomorrow if Ethel doesn’t have a new poem yet. We’ll see. This is so simple and straightforward that it has what mathematicians call elegance, a state much to be admired in both poetry and mathematics. The form is challenging. I found that too, and I spent over a week before I got something that I thought might be okay. I penalized myself by insisting that I use a traditional volta in line 9 too. I’m not sure that was wise, but your question in line 9 is the perfect volta, I think.
    My favorite part of this sonnet is:
    They walk together round the field. The bright
    March sun strikes silver from the sward; his white
    Lambs, soft as new-baked loaves, awake the land
    And hope within them…
    When you reach back to the landscape and an earlier time in your descriptions, a richness fills your writing up with song as old as time and as fresh as waters running over brown stone in a small brook.
    Youth is the time for love, of course. It is the time for hope and sunshine. As you get older the love is deeper in some ways. Ethel and I have been married for 46 years now, but it is not like the love in this sonnet where the lovers are free to dream of a whole life stretching out before them. I agree with Ina completely. You truly are a great poet. I wish my Italian had come up to this level, although there always is tomorrow.

    • Ah, Tom. Comments from you are like wine and sunshine and bright, clear music. Good for the heart and uplifting to the soul. Thank you so much. The Italian is a tricky beast: as I said to Ina, I shan’t feel I’ve ‘got’ it until I’ve written at least a couple more. And my wife and I are little more than beginners compared with you and Ethel: we mark a mere 21 years this August! Looking forward to reading your Italian. Everything you write is a joy. N.

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