What is a 14 Line Poem Called?

by Amy

A sonnet is a 14-line poem that follows a specific structure and rhyme scheme. Originating in Italy, the sonnet became a popular poetic form in English literature, known for its intricate patterns and capacity to express deep emotions and ideas.

Types of Sonnets

Petrarchan (Italian) Sonnet

Structure: An octave (eight lines) followed by a sestet (six lines).

Rhyme Scheme: ABBAABBA for the octave; the sestet can vary (e.g., CDECDE or CDCDCD).

Example: Petrarch’s Sonnet 90 (“Upon the breeze she spread her golden hair”).

Shakespearean (English) Sonnet

Structure: Three quatrains (four-line stanzas) followed by a couplet (two lines).


Example: Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”).

Spenserian Sonnet

Structure: Three quatrains followed by a couplet, similar to the Shakespearean sonnet.


Example: Edmund Spenser’s “Amoretti: Sonnet 75” (“One day I wrote her name upon the strand”).

Structure and Characteristics

Sonnets typically follow a metrical pattern known as iambic pentameter, consisting of 10 syllables per line with a pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. A key feature of sonnets is the volta, or turn, which marks a shift in theme or argument. In Petrarchan sonnets, the volta usually occurs between the octave and sestet, while in Shakespearean sonnets, it often appears before the final couplet.

Examples of Famous Sonnets

Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Petrarch’s Sonnet 90

Upon the breeze she spread her golden hair
that in a thousand gentle knots was turned,
and the sweet light beyond all radiance burned
in eyes where now that radiance is rare;
and in her face there seemed to come an air
of pity, true or false, that I discerned:
I had Love’s tinder in my breast unburned,
was it a wonder if it kindled there?
She moved not like a mortal, but as though
she bore an angel’s form, her words had then
a sound that simple human voices lack;
a heavenly spirit, a living sun
was what I saw; now, if it is not so,
the wound’s not healed because the bow goes back.

See also: What is a 16 Line Poem Called?

Historical Context and Significance

The sonnet form originated in Italy, with Francesco Petrarch being one of the earliest and most famous practitioners. The form was later adapted into English literature by poets such as Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and reached its peak of popularity with William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser.

Purpose and Themes

Sonnets often explore themes of love, beauty, time, and mortality. The concise structure of the sonnet allows poets to delve deeply into these complex emotions and ideas within a limited framework, making each word and line carry significant weight.

Writing Tips for Sonnets

Adhere to the Rhyme Scheme and Meter: Follow the specific rhyme scheme of the type of sonnet you are writing and maintain the iambic pentameter.

Craft a Compelling Volta: Ensure that your poem includes a shift in theme or argument, creating a dynamic and engaging progression.

Balance Structure with Expressive Content: While adhering to the sonnet’s structural rules, focus on expressing your theme or emotion effectively and powerfully.


Understanding the sonnet and its various forms allows poets and readers to appreciate the intricacies and beauty of this timeless poetic form. Whether exploring love, beauty, or the passage of time, the sonnet offers a structured yet flexible framework for expressing profound and enduring themes. By studying and experimenting with sonnets, poets can refine their craft and contribute to a rich literary tradition.

FAQs about Poetic Forms and Line Counts

1. What is a 15 line poem called?

There isn’t a universally recognized specific name for a 15-line poem. However, some forms and variations can be adapted to this length:

Rondeau: A 15-line poem that consists of three stanzas with a rhyme scheme of AABBA AABR AABBAR, where “R” is a refrain repeated from the opening line.

Villanelle Variation: Although traditionally 19 lines, some poets may adapt the villanelle structure to fit 15 lines while maintaining the repeating lines and rhyme scheme.

2. What are short poems with 14 lines?

Short poems with 14 lines are called sonnets. There are different types of sonnets, each with specific structures and rhyme schemes:

Shakespearean (English) Sonnet: Consists of three quatrains followed by a couplet, with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG.

Petrarchan (Italian) Sonnet: Divided into an octave (eight lines) with a rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA and a sestet (six lines) with various rhyme patterns (e.g., CDECDE or CDCDCD).

Spenserian Sonnet: Comprises three quatrains and a couplet, with a rhyme scheme of ABABBCBCCDCDEE.

3. What is a sonnet of 14 lines?

A sonnet is a 14-line poem that traditionally follows specific rhyme schemes and structures. The most common types of sonnets are:

Shakespearean (English) Sonnet: Known for its three quatrains and a final couplet, typically following the ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme.

Petrarchan (Italian) Sonnet: Divided into an octave and a sestet, usually with a rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA for the octave and CDECDE or CDCDCD for the sestet.

Spenserian Sonnet: Features three interlocking quatrains and a final couplet with a rhyme scheme of ABABBCBCCDCDEE.

4. What is a 13 line poem called?

A 13-line poem does not have a specific, universally recognized term. However, there are forms and variations that can be adapted to this length:

Rondeau Prime: A form of rondeau that typically has 13 lines with a refrain that appears twice, following the rhyme scheme aabba aabR aabbaR.

Modified Sonnet: Occasionally, poets might adapt the sonnet form to 13 lines, omitting one line while maintaining the overall structure and rhyme scheme.

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