Traditional definitions of the sestina decouple the end-words in the poem’s envoi from the end-word pattern found in its stanzas. The idea impelling the argument in this article is, differently, that the end-words in the envois and stanzas of the poems traditionally considered to be the earliest sestinas, Arnaut Daniel’s canso “Lo ferm voler” and Dante Alighieri’s canzone “Al poco giorno,” are continuous and related. Scholarly discussion on the relationship between end-words in the envois and stanzas of the sestina furnishes the initial evidence in support of this claim. Informed by Mary Douglas’ hypothesis that texts may be wrought as ring compositions, the remainder of the evidence consists of the findings of independently testable ring models deduced from the end-words witnessed by the poems’ primary sources. This evidence warrants the relevance of the minor premise of the following argument to its, and the article’s, conclusion: If “Lo ferm voler” and “Al poco giorno” are to be thought of as sestinas, then models describing how the poems’ end-words relate to each other ought to do so within the six stanzas and envois that are defining characteristics of the sestina as poetic genre. The models described here, however, require more than six cobla and stanza equivalents to do so. Hence the conclusion that the poems are misclassified as sestinas.


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pp. 25-46
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