Archives For Sonnet


Sonnet 2
William Shakespeare

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery so gazed on now,
Will be a tattered weed of small worth held.
Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say within thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer, “This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,”
Proving his beauty by succession thine.
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.


“A Robust Inheritance”

A Review of
The Art of the Sonnet

By Stephen Burt and David Mikics

Reviewed by Brett Foster.

[ Read an excerpt from this book… ]

The Art of the Sonnet
Stephen Burt and David Mikics
Hardback: Harvard UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

THE ART OF THE SONNET - Burt and MikicsThis collection of one hundred representative sonnets, ranging from the early sixteenth-century English poet Thomas Wyatt to a sonnet published just last year by the San Francisco poet D. A. Powell, presents a series of diversities – chronological, geographical, stylistic – all surprisingly emerging from the same, seemingly straightforward form. Each of these lyric poems does its work in fourteen lines (usually, although even this identifier is open to exceptions, as in “tailed” sonnets or George Meredith’s sixteen-line sonnet sequence Modern Love). The poets also exhibit, as a kind of mental calling card that comes with the mere act of writing sonnets, a consistent engagement with the tradition of sonnets and sonnet writing.

To be clear: these engagements vary tremendously, some being, in Stephen Burt’s and David Mikic’s words, “self-consciously traditional” and others “decidedly impure” instead. Yet The Art of the Sonnet’s compilers and commentators take it as a given that any sonnet will be in communication, or maybe in the midst of a quarrel, with the form’s robust inheritance. For example, a poem such as Alison Brackenbury’s recent “Homework. Write a Sonnet. About Love?”, with its opening line, “There are too many sonnets about love,” is in fact highly sensitive and even beholden to the very tradition and subject it wishes to dismiss— its act of “writing off” remains an homage to this particular written form. This tenacious legacy involves the formal details of how a sonnet is written, as well as the subjects, tones, and values we readers expect to find in any poem we quickly recognize (Aha!) as a sonnet.

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by George Herbert
[ As featured in The Art of the Sonnet ]

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner’s towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.


Sonnet LIV
William Shakespeare


O! how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give.
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour, which doth in it live.
The canker blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses.
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
When summer's breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo'd, and unrespected fade;
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths, are sweetest odours made:
     And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
     When that shall vade, by verse distills your truth.