29 may. 2012

Sonnets

While working on my writing in the morning, the rest of my days are spent doing household chores, hanging out with my daughter, and reading (memorizing) English romantic poetry. The revival of the sonnet is particularly interesting. I don't associate it with 18th century poetry or neo-classical poetry at all. No prominent sonnets by Dryden, Pope, Johnson,or even Blake or Burns, in contrast with the centrality of the form for Shakespeare, Spenser, Sidney, and Donne. Milton wrote few, but significant ones: "soul animating strains, alas, too few." Wordsworth really makes the form his own, in a very self-conscious way. Shelley uses the form to denounce Wordsworth, "once having been, that thou shouldst cease to be." Keats writes a very technically self-conscious sonnet, "If in dull rhymes our English must be chained." The sonnet is the perfect length to memorize easily and a kind of perfect laboratory for poetic form. Rhyme schemes, which seem fixed, are extremely variable in practice, from Keats' almost random lay-out in this sonnet, to Frost's terza rima ("Acquainted with the Night") or couplets ("A bird half wakened in the lunar moon."). The English-language sonnet is often more Italianate then Shakespearian.