Tradition and modernity, tradition and expression - the sonnet began in Italy back in the 12th century. A poetic form used by Petrarcha, Dante Alighieri, Shakespeare, John Milton. Expressing nature’s beauty, love and death and admiration, it’s being used today to express explosions of emotion and imagination.
Tradition and form - the sonnet - 14 lines rhymed according to stern patterns. Go to the bottom of this page to find links to sonnets old and new. Or begin by reading Shakespeare’s most loved sonnet:
|Is this Shakespeare?|
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 dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
|or John Milton...|
And John Milton’s To the Nightingale:
O NIGHTINGALE that on yon bloomy spray
Warbl'st at eve, when all the woods are still,
Thou with fresh hope the lover's heart dost fill,
While the jolly hours lead on propitious May.
Thy liquid notes that close the eye of day,
First heard before the shallow cuckoo's bill,
Portend success in love. O, if Jove's will
Have linked that amorous power to thy soft lay,
Now timely sing, ere the rude bird of hate
Foretell my hopeles doom, in some grove nigh;
As thou from year to year hast sung too late
For my relief, yet hadst no reason why.
Whether the Muse or Love call thee his mate,
Both them I serve, and of their train am I.
And be sure to see how Peter Ingestad (or Kraxpelax) plays with this immortal poetic form in his ”Sonnet for Katie”. Here - read the first two stanzas of this 45-stanza mini sonnet-novel:
Most people seem incapable of learning!
Could anyone but Katie understand
just how the letter M is always burning?
She says: "Bréton is getting out of hand
for you, kind of!" – I know she's only kidding;
her ignorance is nothing but pretense
for social reasons, yes, she knows her ridding
herself of everything that could make sense
to me! She asks me what I'm really smoking,
and I explain I only smoke Rimbaud.
– "Why, then you must be on the verge of choking,"
she says. "Now would you deal me such a blow?
I think You should smoke me instead of them,
'cause I am lightened by the letter M!"
"You're wiser, Katie, you could be my mother,
admittedly," I said, "do I confuse
you still…? – The one true state excludes the other,
what do you think, I guess it's too abstruse
of course, so let me clarify, dear sister,
and just stop talking nonsense to you here.
Guess later on I'll send another twister,
just catch it if you can, and keep it, dear…"
"The pessimist I hear, as always," Katie
now said, "honey, you know it's quite abstract.
But you'll go on like that until you're eighty
and propably remain somewhat intact –
Guess I must learn, get wise enough to see
how to survive you, Sir Catastropheee-ee!"
You're getting curious?
Here's another of Peter Ingestad's sonnets to Katie
(found by mere chance as a cached copy on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine 2014 april 7)
den 7 juli 2009SONNET FOR KATIE
So what about this world of ugly beauty
where Life goes Death, austerity perverse
by overdue prescriptions? Holy Duty
prevails in minight's daylight; calm and terse
our Prayer be; as yet no God will hear it,
since matters as we know them don't exist!
Our world is here, is not, we mustn't fear it
when distant children cry immersed in mist
beyond our desperate eyelids. Katie enters
my virtual room; I see her alien eyes,
where all my absurd Faith in panic centers
antecipations of confirmative surprise -
She says: "If this disease, your life, is mental,
its final cure may still be transcendental."
(Sorry to say, since I published this, Peter Ingestad's blog Kraxpelax has been closed. Some of his Sonnets for Katie can still be read here NB! Read the COMPLETE version of the sonnet cycle on my blog here. The cached copy of Sonnets för Katie can be read here)
Now, if you want to know more about the sonnet, you read History of the sonnet on the Poet's Garret.
A blog with all Shakespeare's sonnets is to be found here.
Here is a page with Milton's poems, including his sonnets.
General wikipedia information.
Also read Milton's work online by accessing "The Milton Reading Room" at Dartmouth College Library, Hanover USA