Sunday, 30 June 2013


In the late 16th century  it was fashionable for English gentleman authors to write sonnets, lyric poems composed of 14 lines. The sonnet is composed with a formal rhyme scheme, denoting different thoughts, moods, or emotions, sometimes summed up in the last lines of the poem.
The two main forms of the sonnet are the Petrarchan (Italian) and the Shakespearean (English).
Sonnets had been glorified by Petrarch in Italy more than 200 years before English poets even knew about them. Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, were among the first to introduce the sonnet into England. William Shakespeare's first and second years in London were spent writing in the Petrarchan style. The Petrarchan sonnet has an eight-line stanza, or octave, and six-line stanza, or sestet. The octave has two quatrains, rhyming abba, abba, but avoiding a couplet; the first quatrain gives the theme, and the second develops it. The sestet is built on two or three different rhymes; the first three lines reflect on the theme, and the last three lines bring the whole poem to an end.
The English sonnet  is divided into three quatrains, each rhymed differently, with an independently rhymed couplet at the end. Its rhyme scheme is abab, cdcd, efef, gg. Each quatrain takes a different appearance of the idea or develops a different image to express the theme. In his lifetime William Shakespeare composed 154 sonnets  which  were in this form and can be divided into three groups:
1. twenty-six sonnets written mostly to a young man, seventeen  of them urging marriage;
2. one hundred and one sonnets, also written to a young man (probably the same young nobleman as in the first twenty-six). These have a variety of themes, such as the beauty of the loved one; destruction of beauty; competition with a Rival Poet; despair about the absence of a loved one;  and reaction toward the young man's coldness;
3. the remaining twenty-seven sonnets are written mainly to a woman, popularly known as  "the Dark Lady." Seemingly Shakespeare had a love affair with this woman.
Most Elizabethan sonnets were written about joys and sorrows of love. Some of Shakespeare's sonnet arrangements are thought to be autobiographical. This is why scholars have tried to learn about William Shakespeare's life from his sonnets. But some of the critics view the sonnets as "purely literary exercises."  

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

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-fixed 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. 

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 damask'd, 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. 

Here you can find a review of  these sonnets. 

No comments: