Thursday, March 13, 2014

English Sonnet



The octave presents the speaker's experience of the sound of the sea, coming to him from some distance. In the sestet, this experience mutates into a meditation on the nature of inspiration and man's connection to creation and his experience of the numinous.
English has (proportionally) far fewer rhyming words than Italian. Recognizing this, Shakespeare adapted the sonnet form to English by creating an alternate rhyme scheme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The poet using this, the English sonnet or Shakespearean sonnet form, may use the fourteen lines as single unit of thought (as in "The Silken Tent" above), or she may treat the groups of four rhyming lines (the quatrains) as organizational units, as in Shakespeare's Sonnet 73:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth steal away,
Death's second self, which seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
In lines 1-4, the speaker compares his time of life to autumn. In lines 5-8, the comparison is to twilight; in lines 9-12, the comparison is to the last moments of a dying fire. Each quatrain presents a shorter unit of time, creating a sense of time accelerating toward an inevitable end, the death implied in the final couplet.


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