Medieval Verse: The Shakespearian Sonnet

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March 6, 2015 by phicks2012

wh_tudorsThis is another in my series of articles on poetic forms used during the Middle Ages, and deals with the popular Shakespearean Sonnet.

14 lines written in iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme of
A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D-E-F-E-F-D-G-G (three quatrains and a couplet).

An Iambic Foot is composed of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, as in the words “begin” or ‘estate”, or in the phrases “to speak” or “in charge”. A Shakespearian sonnet will very occasionally also have lines ending with a trochaic foot (one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable, as in the work “shaken”), but bear in mind that in period some words we now pronounce with two clear syllables were not necessarily pronounced that way.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds (a)
Admit impediments, love is not love (b)
Which alters when it alteration finds, (a)
Or bends with the remover to remove. (b)
O no, it is an ever fixèd mark (c)
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; (d)
It is the star to every wand’ring bark, ©
Whose worth’s unknown although his height be taken. (d)
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks (e)
Within his bending sickle’s compass come, (f)
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, (e)
But bears it out even to the edge of doom: (f)
If this be error and upon me proved, (g)
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. (g)

The form is often named after Shakespeare, not because he was the first to write in this form but because he became its most famous practitioner.

Sonnet No.14 (Shakespearian Sonnet Form)
To Laughter

I mark me how the rapturous stream doeth spill
From sources deep and freshened by delight;
The heart untethered and the soul refilled;
The eye full-brimming and irriguous bright;
The music quickened and the rhythm glad,
Impetuous, and blithe as joy may be;
The loose-limbed languor mocking all things sad,
With sweet out-pourings of pure levity.
The clement countenance, sparks radiant then,
Enchanted, softened, and from inward lit.
The sweet ambrosial music spills again
A rindle rushing from a fount of wit.
All that which brings us joy must come thereof,
And those who bring us laughter, we must love.

[May 3rd, 2004]

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