This post is due by the time your class meets on Tuesday, 21 April. Thank you to the students who posted earlier.
One of the most enduring poetic forms, the sonnet—a fourteen-line lyric poem about a single topic, with strict rules for meter and rhyme—was popularized by an Italian named Petrarch in the 1300’s. Later, English poets modified its rules a bit, and the English or Shakespearean sonnet was born. Both versions remain popular today in a variety of languages, although the strict rules that defined sonnets when they first became popular are often modified or wholly abandoned by modern poets.
Read the four sonnets below, and then complete the following items as a reply to this post. Note: though not required, any analytic comments you make about the sonnets’ meter, based on our work from Wednesday in class, will be much appreciated.
- Comment on the differences between the modern and traditional sonnets. Which style do you find more effective or compelling?
- Consider the two Shakespearean sonnets: what is their central difference? Which do you prefer? Why?
- Of the four sonnets, which did you find most effective? Why? Give at least two examples directly from the sonnet. (This may be the same sonnet you chose for #2 if you like, but your comments should be different or, at least, more developed.)
- Finally, choose a third sonnet that you like from one of the sources below, and comment on its effectiveness, using at least two specific examples. Please paste your sonnet into your response, or as a comment on your response.
all of Shakespeare’s sonnets / famous sonnets / more varied and modern selection (note that some of those on this last link can only be considered sonnets by very liberal standards—for your selection, try to stick with those that have only 14 lines, or close to 14 lines with a rhyming couplet at the end)
(scored with a weight-of-2 grade in standards 5 & 6)
being to timelessness as it’s to time,
love did no more begin than love will end;
where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim
love is the air the ocean and the land
(do lovers suffer? all divinities
proudly descending put on deathful flesh:
are lovers glad? only their smallest joy’s
a universe emerging from a wish)
love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star
—do lovers love? why then to heaven with hell.
Whatever sages say and fools, all’s well
Claude McKay: America
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.