Octave Examples


An octave is a set of 8 lines of poetry. Simply, octave can be used to refer to any 8 lines of poetry that make a poem or a specific stanza-rhymed or unrhymed, following a specific meter or not. However, typically, octave refers to 8 lines of iambic pentameter (alternative unstressed/stressed syllables, with 5 feet or 10 total syllables) that are part of a Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet. A sonnet has 14 lines, but the Petrarchan form is divided into an octave, 8 lines, and a sestet, 6 lines. Often, the octave has a rhyme scheme of abba, abba.

Examples of Octave:

The first 8 lines of John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" are an example of octave:

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.

Another example of octave are these first 8 lines of Christina Rosetti's "Remember":

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee" contains a couple of examples of octave, but the poem is not a sonnet. Here is one of the 8-line stanzas:

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

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