Sep 3, 2009


Initially, the Sonnet appeared in the early thirteenth century at the Sicilian court of Frederick II (King of Sicily (1197-1250) and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1197-1250)).

With its repetition of words rather than rhymes (in its original Sicilian form), it is thought to have descended from troubadour forms like the Sestina. Some have speculated that it may also have been influenced by the great form of Arabic culture, the Ghazal.

Since its introduction into English in the 16th century, the 14-line sonnet form has remained relatively stable, it’s long enough that its images and symbols can carry detail, but short enough that it requires some poetic thought.

For more extended poetic treatment of a single theme, some poets have written sonnet cycles, a series of sonnets on related concerns, often addressed to a single person and sonnet crowns, a sonnet series linked by repeating the last line of one sonnet in the first line of the next, until the circle is closed by using the first line of the first sonnet as the last line of the last sonnet.

There are many different forms for the sonnet, starting with the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet which has a rhyme scheme of abbaabba/cdecde. This is a relatively hard form of sonnet to write in English; it's far easier to find large numbers of words that rhyme when you're working in Italian.

The Shakespearean sonnet rhymes ababcdcd/efefgg, a rhyming scheme so much better suited to our language that the Bard was able to write 154 of them..

The Spenserian sonnet (after Edmund Spenser, who wrote the poetic epic Faerie Queene) is often claimed to be a compromise between Italian and English sonnet forms; it rhymes ababbcbc/cdcdee. This rhyming scheme is every bit as demanding as that of an Italian sonnet. Hardly anyone other than Spenser himself has ever used this form.

John Milton then returned to the original Italian form, with so much success that they renamed it after him - the Miltonian sonnet is almost exactly the same as the Petrarchan. The only change Milton made was to allow the break that normally comes after 8 lines to come a little earlier or later.

There are numerous further variations - for example, Wordsworth used abbaacca/dedede, the Sicilian sonnet uses abababab/cdcdcd, John Clare the straightforward aabbccddeeffgg.

For more information about the different forms of sonnets and how to create them, go HERE.

My example started out being a Shakespearean sonnet but I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out so I started looking for examples to compare it to. I could only find examples written by Shakespeare. Mine looked even cheesier when compared to The Bard, so I changed it. :-)

The example I ended up with is an Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet. It's a more difficult form to follow than the Shakespearean, but since I was more or less just re-writing my original sonnet I didn't find it too bad.


The whisper of the trees tonight
spread secret tales upon the breeze.
Follow me and take your ease.
The glen is filled with glowing light
there’s magic in this rarest night
beyond your ken. Beneath the trees
they gather round in twos and threes.
The fairy glen is pure delight.

The pixies and the goblins dance
and beckon all to join their ring.
They have until the rising sun
for merriment and coy romance
and then make haste and take to wing,
and so an end to fairy fun.


Jamie D. said...

What a fun little sonnet! I love reading sonnets, but that's probably because I was reading Shakespeare's when I was 12.

I'm a bit sad to see "an end to fairy fun." Poor little things...

C R Ward said...

Thanks, Jamie. I think I prefer reading sonnets to writing them!

Fish Out of Water... said...

Sounds good woman...not sure how you are keeping up with this and school too...

Tara said...

Add some trills from a flute, and I could see this entertaining a court.