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The term is used in English literature, as opposed to sonnet, for a poem in fourteen rhymed iambic lines closing (as a sonnet strictly never does) with a couplet. The distinction was long neglected because the English poets of the 16th century had failed to apprehend the true form of the sonnet, and called Petrarch's and other Italian poets' sonnets quatorzains, and their own incorrect quatorzains sonnets. Almost all the so-called sonnets of the Elizabethan cycles, including those of William Shakespeare, Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser and Samuel Daniel, are really quatorzains. They consist of three quatrains of alternate rhyme, not repeated in the successive quatlains, and the whole closes with a couplet. An example of the form can be found in the following, published by Michael Drayton in 1602:
John Donne, and afterwards John Milton, fought against the facility and incorrectness of this form of metre and adopted the Italian form of sonnet. During the 19th century, most poets of distinction prided themselves on following the strict Petrarchan model of the sonnet, and particularly in avoiding the final couplet. In his most mature period, however, John Keats returned to the quatorzain, perhaps in emulation with Shakespeare.
Additional examples of this form include Keats' When I have fears, Standing aloof in giant ignorance, Bright Star, and S. T. Coleridge's The Fancy in Nubibus (1819).
This analysis is of course, dead wrong, and only weird theorists of a century ago would try to insist that only Petrarchan sonnets are sonnets.