I’ve been thinking about sonnets this month and trying to write some myself. They’re not too difficult, in theory, as you have a defined rhyme scheme and a metrical pattern to follow.
If you Google “sonnet” you’ll find there are different kinds of sonnets listed and described. The one I favour, and it is the one you’ll recognise in lots of poems you read, is the Shakespearean sonnet.
A Shakespearean sonnet evolved in England during and around the time of the Elizabethan era. These sonnets are sometimes referred to as Elizabethan sonnets or English sonnets. He loved the form, writing 154 sonnets. People are still coming up with theories about who they were addressed to…his dark lady? Or his young male muse?
I have really enjoyed hearing Shakespeare’s sonnets read by Patrick Stewart over the last few weeks. You can find him on YouTube here: Sonnet a Day.
So, these sonnets have 14 lines divided into 4 subgroups: 3 sets of four lines (quatrains) and a final rhyming pair (a couplet). Each line is typically ten syllables, with a beat that you can recognise if you read it aloud.
A Shakespearean sonnet employs the rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
Now, having told you so much about Shakespeare let me share a very gentle one by Christina Rosetti.
A Sonnet of Sonnets
I lov’d you first: but afterwards your love
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drown’d the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? my love was long,
And yours one moment seem’d to wax more strong;
I lov’d and guess’d at you, you construed me–
And lov’d me for what might or might not be
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not “mine” or “thine;”
With separate “I” and “thou” free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of “thine that is not mine;”
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.
Of course, modern poets take use their own take on the form, so usually a 14 line poem might give you a clue; sometimes the follow a metrical pattern, other times they don’t. Carol Ann Duffy’s poem about Anne Hathaway, which appeared in her collection The World’s Wife is like a sonnet and suggests a Shakespearean sonnet, without actually being a strict sonnet form. And she wrote a sonnet for the Armistice Day Centenary called The Wound in Time which is only really recognisable as a sonnet as it has fourteen lines.
You may enjoy the challenge of fitting your message into fourteen lines without trying too hard to get the syllables and rhymes to fit. Sometimes forcing a rhyme can be too hard and make the poem a bit clunky. Why not have a go for the Hysteria competition?
And finally, June is traditionally associated with weddings. We have many, many poetic images to go with traditional weddings: white lace and promises (courtesy of the Carpenters…the first song at our wedding!), orange blossom, choirs and bell ringers, elephants (in some cultures), rings, joining hands and plentiful confetti. I’m going to be having a go at writing about a wedding in 2020 where the initial guidelines were:
The number of people attending church weddings during the coronavirus crisis will be limited to five people. This is the legal minimum – the priest, the bride and groom and two witnesses…
I’ve continued editing the Thoughtful Tuesday page for Write On! Magazine online during lockdown. So, why not pop over there for some more inspiration and to get your creative juices flowing.