In part 1 of the Spotlight on Poetry series, I talked about the Ode. Today I will continue the series with one of the most popular forms of poetry: the Sonnet. Along with most types of form poetry, there are many variations in the form. In this article I’ll discuss the two primary kinds of sonnets, giving an example of each, and then I’ll briefly touch on a little history of a few more subvariations in the sonnet form. I’ll conclude with a sonnet of my own.
The first kind of sonnet I’d like to talk about is the most common: the Petrarchan sonnet. It was named after the Italian poet, Petrarch.
It is a fourteen-line poem broken into two four-line stanzas (which is called the octave) and one six-line stanza (called the sestet). The rhyme scheme is is a solid ABBA ABBA CDECDE (or CDCDCD). It is written in Iambic Pentameter, which means there are ten syllables per line, with the accents on every even syllable. The material for the octave presents an argument or idea, and the sestet answers (amplifies, clarifies, or refutes).
John Milton – On His Blindness
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Onward to the most popular of sonnets, the Shakespearean sonnet. It’s aptly named after one of the most well-known playwrights in history: William Shakespeare.
The Shakespearean sonnet is also a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter. It consists of three quatrains and one couplet. The sonnet follows the rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The three quatrains explain an idea and the couplet refutes or clarifies the material in the quatrains.
William Shakespeare – Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Other variations of the sonnet include the Spenserian sonnet, which links the quatrains with a rhyme scheme of ABAB BCBC CDCD EE. Another style of the sonnet is called the Corona (no, not the beer) and occurs when there is a series of sonnets in which the last line of one sonnet is the first line in the next sonnet. It is complete when the last line of the final sonnet is the first line of the first sonnet. Another style of sonnets is called the sonnet redouble. This is a series of 15 sonnets. The first 14 sonnets create a corona, and the 15th sonnet is made up of the linking lines, in order. Another variation is the word sonnet. In this variation we have a fourteen-line sonnet with one word per line.
As you can see, within the sonnet form there are great differences and thus there is no set definition of a sonnet. Here is a new sonnet that I have written for this article, entitled Flight Beyond the Stars.
Robert Adkisson – Flight Beyond the Stars
I can’t imagine what it would be like
To throw myself beyond Earth’s gravity.
To hope I not an asteroid will strike,
For that would end my trip too soon, surely.
To hear the cosmic singing of the stars,
Though solar winds may send my course awhirl,
I ever would be travelling too far,
And moons reflected be as silent pearls.
In the dark confines of the sea of space,
I drift along at mercy of the suns.
Within the universe I slowly race
Until I cross the borders and have won.
But none can ever fly beyond the stars
Forever they will go on, as do wars.
Now for the fun part! I’d like for you to write your own Sonnet! Please comment with the text (1 stanza only though) or a link to your Sonnet (as many stanzas as you’d like). Happy writing!