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The History of the Sonnet

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Introduction

The History of the Sonnet The word "sonnet" is derived from the Italian word "sonneto", meaning little sound. It is a fourteen line poem, written in Iambic Pentameter, meaning short beat, long beat rhythm. The first word or syllable is unstressed, while the second is stressed, as in "delight". A line in a sonnet has five of these, meaning there are ten syllables to a line. Different poets change the structure slightly or dramatically, not because they are incapable of writing a sonnet like that, but because they want to call attention to the change or use it differently. This difference in structures is called the pattern of rhyme. The Italian, or Petrarchan sonnet was perfected by Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch). It consists of two parts, and octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The octave addresses one theme or thought, turning on the Volta or shift, and the poem ends dramatically in the last six lines. The pattern of rhyme is generally abba abba cde cde. An example of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, by Christina Rossetti: O Earth, lie heavenly upon her eyes; Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth; Lie close around her; leave no room for mirth With its harsh laughter, nor for sounds of sighs. ...read more.

Middle

Tony Harrison Tony Harrison was born in Leeds, in 1937. Harrison has a sense of utility and thinks 'strong, powerful emotions are hard to measure without some form of doing it." He illustrates his emotions through poetry, and often writes about his family. A lot of his inspiration comes from his earlier life, often based on his family and childhood. The following are one of Harrison's most famous poems, in the form of two sonnets. Them & [uz] I Ay ay! . . . stutterer Demosthenes Gob full of pebbles outshouting seas - 4 words only of mi'art aches and . . . 'Mine's broken, you barbarian, T.W.!' He was nicely spoken. 'Can't have our glories heritage done to death!' I played the Drunken Porter in Macbeth. 'Poetry's the speech of kings. You're one of those Shakespeare gives the comic bits to: prose! All poetry (even Cockney Keats?) you see 's been dubbed by [?s] into RP, Received Pronunciation, please believe [?s] Your speech is in the hands of the Receivers.' 'We say [?s] not [us], T.W.!' That shut my trap. I doffed my flat a's (as in 'flat cap'), My mouth all stuffed with glottals, great Lumps to hawk up and spit out . . . E-nun-ci-ate! II So right, yer buggers, then! ...read more.

Conclusion

In the first sonnet, the teacher is talking about how poetry was the speech of kings. It seems as though Harrison felt as if poetry was a field closed to him due to his accent, however, this is quite ironic because years from then, he has become an excellent poet. The sonnet is full of puns and wordplay - "chewed up litterchewer", is a visual and auditory verbal gag, but also records a non-standard common pronunciation of "literature". In "ending sentences with by, with, from", Harrison perhaps goes against the rules stated by the Oxford dictionary, forbidding the placing of the preposition at the end of a clause or sentence. This goes back to Tony Harrison using colloquial language to make his writing more personal, as he may have believed that the way in which he spoke was correct, and the way in which other spoke was not. There is much focus on the last line of the second sonnet, as it is obvious that Harrison has let go of his past and is concentrating on the present and future. I think that Harrison's sonnets are remarkable in how he is able to capture the reader's attention with his own style and language. The subjects of his sonnets are different to those I normally read, and I think that the way he managed to put his emotions into words was simply amazing. ...read more.

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