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The Sonnet

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Victoria Cogswell

on 12 January 2012

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Transcript of The Sonnet

a
b
a
b

c
d
c
d

e
f
e
f

g
g
A My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
B Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
A If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
B If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
C I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
D But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
C And in some perfumes is there more delight
D Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
E I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
F That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
E I grant I never saw a goddess go;
F My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
G And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
G As any she belied with false compare.
The word
SONNET
comes from the
Italian word
"sonnetto"
meaning "little song"

The form was probably "invented" by
Giacomo da Lentini in the 13th century.
Other sonnet writers included
Dante Alighieri and Michaelangelo.

However, the sonnet was made famous by
another Italian--
Petrarch was born
in Abruzza, Italy,
in 1304.
Petrarch wrote many
of his sonnets for a mysterious
"Laura" who could have been
Laura de Noves.
She was married,
and not interested.
The popularity of the form in
England eventually
led to a new version
of the sonnet,
called, the
English Sonnet.
Francesco Petrarch
(At least he got a sonnet form
named after him -- the Italian, or
"Petrarchan" sonnet.)
Poor Francesco.
(This is
where
Shakespeare
comes in....)

wrote at least 154 sonnets,
mostly on the subject
of love, and became the
most famous English-
speaking sonnet writer.
Once Shakespeare got into
the sonnet-writing business,
Petrarch enjoyed a lot less attention
.
Poor Francesco.
There are three main things to remember
when writing an English sonnet.
1. A traditional sonnet has
lines.
They're usually
grouped together
in one big stanza.
2. Sonnets are written in


"Iambic Pentameter" is one of many different rhythm patterns used in poetry, called "meter".
In fact, iambic pentameter is the most popular
and the most common. Shakespeare used it all
the time, in his poetry AND his plays.
An "iamb" is one foot in a line
of poetry that has first an unstressed
syllable, and then a stressed one.
It's in the name, if you think about it:
i - AM. i- AM.
It's also commonly thought of as a
heart beat rhythm.

How romantic.
unless you're Francesco....
"Pentameter" tells you how many"heartbeats" are in each line of poetry.
In this case, "pent" or "penta" means "five", so there are
five heartbeats in each line.
And finally,
3. A traditional
English sonnet follows a specific rhyme scheme.

How about an example?
Here's one you've probably
heard before:


by
William Shakespeare.


Listen for the rhythm, rhyme
scheme as Professor Snape reads.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Did you notice the rhyme scheme?
Here it is again:
Now it's your turn!
Your assignment is to write your
own English (or Italian, if you want
a challenge) sonnet.

If you like, you can model yours
on Sonnet 130, in which you
describe the subject by discussing
what it ISN'T.

I've heard some excellent NASCAR sonnets!
Or you could write about
unrequited love!
The sonnet became unfashionable for a time
but regained popularity around the
time of the French Revolution (late 1700's).

The sonnet remains the most popular
formal poetic form today.
The last two lines (or "couplet") often give the reader a new look at the theme.
Think of it as a "fresh twist".
Note: The Italian sonnet employs a different rhyme scheme, and a
"volta", or turning point located
around the 9th line. Sort of a
problem/resolution discussion...
The words "and yet" signal something new
the speaker wants to say about his subject.
The "fresh twist" we were talking about earlier!

The
Italian sonnet rhyme scheme looks like this:
A few more well- known sonnet writers:
Wordsworth
Keats
Shelley
(Or, ten syllables, in a pattern of unstressed-stressed,
etc.)
(English OR Italian, if you're an AP student)

(But you can choose
to write about any subject.
Poor Francesco.
(The first two are also true of the Italian sonnet)
Sir Thomas Wyatt is credited with being
the first to translate Petrarch's work into English

(of course)
Here's a more modern example.
This one is by Edna St. Vincent Millay,
a 20th century poet.
If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again--
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man--who happened to be you--
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud--I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place--
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.
Auden
Heaney
Neruda
Millay
Bishop
ABBAABBA CDECDE
A quick review:
In the 16th century, Shakespeare
Full transcript