- An Aeronaut to His Lady
Sonnets have some definite rules attached to them, but they don't all have to look exactly the same. For instance, there are several different accepted rhyme schemes available, which subdivide the style into schools. Sonnets based on the original Italian style are generally known as Petrarchan. They start out with eight lines called an octave which are generally rhymed a-b-a-b, a-b-a-b; or a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a. The sestet, the last six lines, have the options of c-d-e-c-d-e or c-d-c-c-d-c. The English or Shakespearean sonnet generally has three quatrains and a couplet a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. They're also usually written in iambic pentameter which adds even more structure. Then there's the Spenserian sonnet which uses the a-b a-b, b-c b-c, c-d c-d, e-e scheme. Then there's all the variations on those schemes.
It's safe to say, though that there are 14 lines, and a specific rhyme scheme.
Here's another quote from the article "How Does a Poem Mean"
- Just for the frivolous pleasure of poetry, if you like, there is a marvelous sonnet. It is one of my favorite tricks in poetry—a skeletal sonnet. You have probably studied the sonnet at one time or another. Here is a trick played on the sonnet. This sonnet contains one word per line—nothing but the rhyme scheme. That is about as thin as you can get with the sonnet. I have tried for years to find another 14 words that would perform this trick well. No luck. This is called “An Aeronaut to His Lady”:
That is all there is to it. But in those 14 words the poet has observed the a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a, c-d, c-d, e-e rhyme scheme. The first eight lines ask a question; the next six lines answer it. That is the octet and sestet. It divides properly, and the tone of it is the tone of the sonnet. That is a tremendous lot to get into 14 words.
Now supposing instead of that he had sent a wire, saying, “Walking too slow; am flying, love.” You see what would be left out of it. All the joy of the performance. And that is the difference.