The Shakespeare Sonnet – A few comments

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) didn’t only write plays and historical dramas. He was also deeply engaged in the poetry of his time. The art of writing a good poem had rules and regulations as many tried to imitate the Italian verse after Petrarch. Shakespeare managed to develop his own poetic style and the Shakespeare Sonnet differs in style and rhythm from the Petrarchan.  William Shakespeare’s Sonnets was published for the very first time in 1609.  The first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man; the last 28 to a woman. A lot of time and energy has been put in to analyze and interpret themes and characters. Are they autobiographical in nature? Who was the mysterious dark Lady? And who was the anonymous young man? It’s now thought he wrote 154 Sonnets between 1592-1598.

The Themes of the Shakespeare Sonnets

One interpretation is that Shakespeare’s sonnets are a pastiche or parody of the 300-year-old tradition of Petrarchan love sonnets; Shakespeare consciously inverts conventional gender roles as delineated in Petrarchan sonnets to create a more complex depiction of human love.

The Structure of the Shakespeare Sonnet

Let’s take a look on how structure, rhythm and metrics work in the Shakespeare sonnet. But first, what is a Sonnet? A sonnet is in verse form and has fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. The Petarch’s sonnet has this particular scheme: abba abba cdecde. The Shakespeare Sonnet follows a different pattern: a-b-a-b c-d-c-d e-f-e-f  g-g. In Shakespeare’s sonnet the iambic pentameters are finished by a couplet [g-g].

SONNET 116

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

 


Sources

Introduction to Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Wikipedia.org

Wikipedia.commons

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”Abraham Lincoln is my name” – A short poem by Abe

President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) had many talents, and one of his less known was his interest in poetry. He started to write poetry at an early age and one early attempt to greatness is perhaps shown in the following few lines written about 15 or 17. About 9 poems seemed to have survived and are included in the Collected Works by Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same
I wrote in both hast and speed
and left it here for fools to read.

Source

wikipedia.org
wikipedia.commons

“The Destruction of Sennacherib” – A poem by Lord Byron

In previous posts you learned more about the Romantic poets and I continue today with Lord Byron (1788-1824). He has been mentioned here before and was one of the leading poets of the Romantic Movement. Lord Byron may have lived a very adventurous lifestyle, but his time and place in history was also a more religious one than today. Therefore, many of his poems contains religious references to the Bible and Christianity. One such well-known poem is called “The Destruction of Sennacherib” and was published in 1815. In this poem Lord Byron manages to re-tell the biblical story (2 Kings. 18-19) on how the Assyrian king tried to capture Jerusalem. The Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem is historical (dated 701 BC), but the Assyrian annals report that the result was the payment of tribute by Jerusalem, with king Hezekiah remaining in office as a vassal ruler. Pay attention to how he builds up the story! Can you hear the horses while you’re reading?

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Bildresultat för Sennacherib
From the Khorsabad Palace of King Sargon II c.722-705 BCE Relief depicting King Sennacherib 
Bildresultat för Sennacherib

The Biblical References

According to the story as related in 2 Kings, the Assyrian army came “against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.” When the Assyrians were besieging Jerusalem, Hezekiah prayed to the Lord in the Temple, and Isaiah sent the reply from the Lord to Hezekiah to the effect “I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (2 Kings 19:34), and during the following night the Angel of the Lord (מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה) “smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand” (i.e. 185,000), so by morning most of the Assyrian army was found to have died, mysteriously, in their sleep (2 Kings 19:35), and Sennacherib went back to Nineveh.

Sources

wikipedia.org [various entries]