An example of a sestina:
Since Wailing is a Bud of Causeful Sorrow
by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)
- (1) Since wailing is a bud of causeful sorrow,
- (2) Since sorrow is the follower of ill fortune,
- (3) Since no ill fortune equals public damage,
- (4) Now prince's loss hath made our damage public,
- (5) Sorrow pay we unto the rights of Nature,
- (6) And inward grief seal up with outward wailing.
- (6) Why should we spare our voice from endless wailing,
- (1) Who justly make our hearts the seats of sorrow,
- (5) In such a case where it appears that Nature
- (2) Doth add her force unto the sting of fortune,
- (4) Choosing alas, this our theatre public,
- (3) Where they would leave trophies of cruel damage?
- (3) Then since such pow'rs conspire unto our damage
- (6) (Which may be known, but never helped with wailing)
- (4) Yet let us leave a monument in public,
- (1) Of willing tears, torn hair, and cries of sorrow.
- (2) For lost, lost is by blow of cruel fortune
- (5) Arcadia's gem, the noblest child of Nature.
- 5) O Nature doting old, O blinded Nature,
- (3) How hast thou torn thyself, sought thine own damage,
- (2) In granting such a scope to filthy fortune,
- (6) By thy imp's loss to fill the world with wailing!
- (1) Cast thy stepmother eyes upon our sorrow,
- (4) Public our loss: so, see, thy shame is public.
- (4) O that we had, to make our woes more public,
- (5) Seas in our eyes, and brazen tongues by nature,
- (1) A yelling voice, and hearts composed of sorrow,
- (3) Breath made of flames, wits knowing naught but damage,
- (6) Our sports murd'ring ourselves, our musics wailing,
- (2) Our studies fixed upon the falls of fortune.
- (2) No, no, our mischief grows in this vile fortune,
- (4) That private pangs cannot breathe out in public
- (6) The furious inward griefs with hellish wailing;
- (5) But forced are to burden feeble Nature
- (3) With secret sense of our eternal damage,
- (1) And sorrow feed, feeding our souls with sorrow.
- (, 2) Since sorrow then concludeth all our fortune,
- (, 4) With all our deaths show we this damage public.
- (, 6) His nature fears to die who lives still wailing.
* The prescribed order for the repetition of the six key words in the sestina is as follows:
First stanza: 1-2-3-4-5-6
Second stanza: 6-1-5-2-4-3
Third stanza: 3-6-4-1-2-5
Fourth stanza: 5-3-2-6-1-4
Fifth stanza: 4-5-1-3-6-2
Sixth stanza: 2-4-6-5-3-1
The order in which the key words appear in the envoi varies. In Dante's first sestina, the words in the envoi appear in the order (2)-1-(4)-6-(5)-3. (Numbers shown in parentheses indicate key words buried within the lines of the envoi.) In Petrarch's fourth sestina, the key-word order of the envoi is (4)-1-(3)-2-(5)-6; in his fifth, the order is (1)-2-(3)-4-(5)-6