Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sonnets: Petrarchan, Elizabethan..


1. Find a Shakespeare sonnet that "speaks" to you.

2. Transcribe it to notebook paper (copy it by hand) - 
Yes, PUNCTUATION, stanzas, and line breaks do, indeed, matter!

3. Annotate the rhyme scheme

4. Comment on the tone:

        What specific adjective would you use to describe the tone? 
        Is there any shift in tone? Where? 

5. Repeat the above directions (1-4) but find a second sonnet - NOT by Shakespeare. 

Examples from class today:

Timothy Steele (b. 1948)

Voluptuous in plenty, summer is  - a
Neglectful of the earnest ones who’ve sought her. - b
She best resides with what she images: - a
Lakes windless with profound sun-shafted water; - b
5          Dense orchards in which high-grassed heat grows thick;
The one-lane country road where, on his knees,
A boy initials soft tar with a stick;
Slow creeks which bear flecked light through depths of trees.

And he alone is summer’s who relents
10        In his poor enterprising; who can sense,
In alleys petal-blown, the wealth of chance;
Or can, supine in a deep meadow, pass
Warm hours beneath a moving sky’s expanse,
Chewing the sweetness from long stalks of grass.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.' 
Sonnets from

From the Italian sonetto, which means "a little sound or song," the sonnet is a popular classical form that has compelled poets for centuries. Traditionally, the sonnet is a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter, which employ one of several rhyme schemes and adhere to a tightly structured thematic organization. Two sonnet forms provide the models from which all other sonnets are formed: the Petrachan and the Shakespearean.

Petrarchan Sonnet

The first and most common sonnet is the Petrarchan, or Italian. Named after one of its greatest practitioners, the Italian poet Petrarch, the Petrarchan sonnet is divided into 

two stanzas, the octave (the first eight lines)

followed by the answering sestet (the final six lines)

The tightly woven rhyme scheme:
c     or    c
d            d
e            c
c            d
d            c
e            d

is suited for the rhyme-rich Italian language, though there are many fine examples in English. Since the Petrarchan presents an argument, observation, question, or some other answerable charge in the octave, 
a turn, or volta, occurs between the eighth and ninth lines. 
This turn marks a shift in the direction of the foregoing argument or narrative, turning the sestet into the vehicle for the counterargument, clarification, or whatever answer the octave demands.

Sir Thomas Wyatt introduced the Petrarchan sonnet to England in the early sixteenth century. His famed translations of Petrarch’s sonnets, as well as his own sonnets, drew fast attention to the form. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, a contemporary of Wyatt’s, whose own translations of Petrarch are considered more faithful to the original though less fine to the ear, modified the Petrarchan, thus establishing the structure that became known as the Shakespearean sonnet. This structure has been noted to lend itself much better to the comparatively rhyme-poor English language.

Shakespearean Sonnet

The second major type of sonnet, the Shakespearean, or English sonnet, follows a different set of rules. 
Here, three quatrains and a couplet 
follow this rhyme scheme: 





The couplet plays a pivotal role, usually arriving in the form of a conclusion, amplification, or even refutation of the previous three stanzas, often creating an epiphanic quality to the end. 

In Sonnet 130 of William Shakespeare’s epic sonnet cycle, the first twelve lines compare the speaker’s mistress unfavorably with nature’s beauties. But the concluding couplet swerves in a surprising direction:

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

Sonnet Variations
Though Shakespeare’s sonnets were perhaps the finest examples of the English sonnet, John Milton’s Italian-patterned sonnets (later known as "Miltonic" sonnets) added several important refinements to the form. Milton freed the sonnet from its typical incarnation in a sequence of sonnets, writing the occasional sonnet that often expressed interior, self-directed concerns. He also took liberties with the turn, allowing the octave to run into the sestet as needed. Both of these qualities can be seen in "When I Consider How my Light is Spent."
The Spenserian sonnet, invented by sixteenth century English poet Edmund Spenser, cribs its structure from the Shakespearean--three quatrains and a couplet--but employs a series of "couplet links" between quatrains, as revealed in the rhyme scheme: abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee. The Spenserian sonnet, through the interweaving of the quatrains, implicitly reorganized the Shakespearean sonnet into couplets, reminiscent of the Petrarchan. One reason was to reduce the often excessive final couplet of the Shakespearean sonnet, putting less pressure on it to resolve the foregoing argument, observation, or question.


Modern Sonnets
The sonnet has continued to engage the modern poet, many of whom also took up the sonnet sequence, notably Rainer Maria Rilke, Robert Lowell, and John Berryman. Stretched and teased formally and thematically, today’s sonnet can often only be identified by the ghost imprint that haunts it, recognizable by the presence of 14 lines or even by name only. Recent practitioners of this so-called “American” sonnet include Gerald SternWanda ColemanTed Berrigan, and Karen Volkman. Hundreds of modern sonnets, as well as those representing the long history of the form, are collected in the recent anthology The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English, edited by Philis Levin.
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