Poetry- the Classic Sonnet

Poetry- the Classic Sonnet

The Classic Sonnet Classic renaissance sonnets are one of the most well-known poetry genres out there. Sonnets distinctive style and wording is classic and timeless. Although this genre was centuries ago, it still remains one of the most recognizable forms of poetry. The Renaissance took place from the 1500s to around the 1700s. During this time there were great advances in life. The poetry of this time is a direct reflection of the changes that around Europe. The form used during the renaissance was a sonnet.

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Sonnets began in Italy as love poem and did not gain popularity written in English until Shakespeare. Sonnets are composed of fourteen lines which are often broken up into two sections. The first section presents a problem or main theme and the second section has the solution or goes further into the point the first section made. There are two types of sonnets, Italian and Shakespearian. Italian sonnets also known as a Petrarchan have two parts; an octave which has a rhythm scheme of “abba, abba” and a setet with a rhythm scheme of “cde, cde. Shakespearian sonnets contain three Sicilian quatrains and ends with a heroic couplet. The rhythm scheme for Shakespearian sonnets is “abab, cdcd, efef, gg. ( McLaughlin ). ” It is essential to discuss both sonnet types and not just the typical Shakespearian sonnets. William Wordsworth is another poet who uses the sonnet poetry form. Wordsworth published a few collections of works including; Lyrical Ballads, The Prelude, and, Poems: In Two Volumes (William Wordsworth). Instead of writing the common Shakespearian style sonnets, he opted for the classic Italian sonnet style in the poem London, 1802.

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour: England hath need of thee: she is a fen Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen, Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, Have forfeited their ancient English dower Of inward happiness. We are selfish men; Oh! raise us up, return to us again; And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power. Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart; Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free, So didst thou travel on life’s common way,

In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart The lowliest duties on herself did lay. In the poem, he addresses dead poet John Milton and calls out that England needs him to help them (William Wordsworth). Without any doubt the most famous sonnet poet was William Shakespeare. Including being an extremely well-known poet, he is also a well-known playwright. More often than not, people recognize the stories of his plays without even ever reading them. He wrote a hundred and fifty four sonnets between 1598 and 1609 which was when they were publicized.

Shakespeare sonnets cover a wide spectrum of things including; love, hate, jealousy, rejection, and affection (Castillo). One of the most popular sonnets Shakespeare wrote was sonnet 138: When my love swears that she is made of truth I do believe her, though I know she lies, That she might think me some untutor’d youth, Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties. Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young, Although she knows my days are past the best, Simply I credit her false speaking tongue: On both sides thus is simple truth suppress’d.

But wherefore says she not she is unjust? And wherefore say not I that I am old? O, love’s best habit is in seeming trust, And age in love loves not to have years told: Therefore I lie with her and she with me, And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be. In this sonnet Shakespeare talks of his relationship with his mistress and his fears of growing old. It is easy to see that he is disconnected from her because of his unconcerned feelings about her lying to him about cheating (Mabillard). This sonnet is just one of the many published in the book of Shakespeare sonnets.

What I think is important about classical sonnets is that they are timeless. Even though the language is dated, they have held the test of time and are still vigorously studied. No other genre of poetry has been studied to this extent. I feel that they explain history and the emotions of those who lived there. I feel that through sonnets, one can understand on a personal level the ideas of the renaissance and classical time period. Works Cited Castillo. Shakespeare’s Sonnets – Synopsis. 13 Novemeber 2009. Online Document. 10 Novemeber 2011.


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