#8: Ottava Rima Give Me Cake and Ale (and that is perfect iambic pentameter!)

The assignment for today’s poem from the NaPoWriMo website: write a poem using the ottava rima from Lord Byron’s Don Juan. It’s an Italian form consisting of an eight line stanza in iambic pentameter with this particular rhyme scheme: a-b-a-b-a-b-c-c.  It’s groovy, and I wanted to try it, but the prompt comes with no subject matter suggestion, and I’m low on reader suggestions, so I took a look at Byron’s masterpiece.  His poem begins with an epigraph from Shakespeare–and I don’t know which play it comes from and I don’t have time to look it up, but I loved it.  And so I am appropriating it (stealing it) to begin my poem.  I have no idea what will happen.  How about a drinking poem?! Poem follows beer, I promise.


Ottava Rima Give Me Cake and Ale

Dost thou think, because you are virtuous,
there shall be no more Cake and Ale? You’re mad!
For cake and ale is stuff of which we must
partake, despite your crabby, prude, and sad
laments.  You dare to drag us off the bus
of wonder, to dampen what makes us glad!
To rob us of our wine and cake and ale,
a task at which you must certainly fail!

Some notes:  If you’ve ever tried to write a sonnet, say, and held yourself fast to the rigors of the form, perfect iambic pentameter, three rhyming quatrains closing with a rhyming couplet, you know it’s difficult.  It boggles the mind to think about Byron’s project in Don Juan, to write an epic bad boy using the above ottava rima form in seventeen cantos!  16,000 lines!  Unflipping believable!  That thing up there took me an hour–and I stole the first two lines from Shakespeare!  That bit is from Twelfth Night, by the way.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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