What is Onegin stanza; Definition and Examples

Onegin stanza is invented by Alexander Pushkin for his verse-novel Eugene Onegin (1831). It is sometimes called “Pushkin sonnet. Modelled on the sonnet but significantly deviating from any of the standard forms, it consists of fourteen iambic tetrameters rhyming aBaBccDDeFFeGG. The a, c and e rhymes are disyllabic and provide the poet with opportunities for bathos and irony in the manner of Lord Byron’s Don Juan. The Onegin stanza has been described as constituting a ‘little chapter’, in which the first quatrain introduces the main idea, the second and third develop it and the couplet epigrammatically sums it up.

In Russian poetry following Pushkin, the form has been utilized by authors like Mikhail Lermontov, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Jurgis Baltrušaitis and Valery Pereleshin, in genres ranging from one-stanza lyrical piece to voluminous autobiography.

It has been imitated in several languages, but English, with its poverty of rhyme, has mostly proved resistant to its tightness. Notable example is Vikram Seth’s Californian verse-novel, The Golden Gate (1986)

He tuned his thoughts to electronic                 a
Circuitry. This soothed his mind.                     B
He left irregular (moronic)                                 a
Sentimentality behind.                                        B
He thought of or-gates and of and-gates,         c
Of ROMs, of nor-gates, and of nand-gates,      c
Of nanoseconds, megabytes,                               D
And bits and nibbles… but as flights                  D
Of silhouetted birds move cawing                       e
Across the pine-serrated sky,                               F
Dragged from his cove, not knowing why,         F
He feels an urgent riptide drawing                      e
Him far out, where, caught in the kelp               G
Of loneliness, he cries for help.                            G

Onegin stanza is also used by John Fuller in “The Illusionists” and Jon Stallworthy in “The Nutcracker”.

Also read; Discuss about Parnassus Plays

Also read; Menippean (or Varronian) satire and its examples