A page from the "Poetry through the Ages" exhibit...

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A predecessor of the sonnet, the canzone’s poem-verse form consists of stanzas written in 10- to 12-syllable lines without a refrain. The canzone is traditionally used in three ways: tragic, comic, and elegiac.

The canzone is one of Italy’s great contributions to Renaissance-era poetry. Yet, outside of the form’s adaptation by Spanish poets into the modern cancion, the 17th century Italian instrumental form of canzona, and the use of "canzone" to describe almost any form of simple and songlike composition, the form faded with the Renaissance.

Rhyme: Varied, but the last line of one stanza rhymes with the first line of the succeeding stanza
Structure: One to seven stanzas of equal length (eight to 20 lines); 11 syllables per line
Measure/Beat: Iambic pentameter
Common Themes: Love, longing, nature, dramatic events
Other Notes:
  • Developed side-by-side with the sonnet in medieval Italy
  • Poem opens with statement of poem’s mission, followed by development
  • Conveyed four poetic sentiments: romantic, tragic, comic, and elegiac