From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A sonnet is a poetic form which originated in the Italian poetry composed at the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in Palermo, Sicily. The 13th-century poet and notary Giacomo da Lentini is credited with the sonnet's invention for expressing courtly love. The Sicilian School of poets who surrounded him at the Emperor's Court are credited with its spread. The earliest sonnets, however, no longer survive in the original Sicilian language, but only after being translated into Tuscan dialect.

The term sonnet is derived from the Italian word sonetto (lit. "little song", derived from the Latin word sonus, meaning a sound). By the 13th century it signified a poem of fourteen lines that follows a very strict rhyme scheme and structure.

According to Christopher Blum, during the Renaissance, the sonnet was the "choice mode of expressing romantic love."[1] As the sonnet form has spread to languages other than Italian, however, conventions have changed considerably and any subject is now considered acceptable for writers of sonnets, who are sometimes called "sonneteers," although the term can be used derisively.

Romance languages[edit]

In Italian[edit]

The sonnet is believed to have been created by Giacomo da Lentini, head of the Sicilian School under Emperor Frederick II.[2] William Baer argues that the first eight lines of the earliest Sicilian sonnets, rhymed ABABABAB, are identical to the eight-line Sicilian folksong stanza known as the Strambotto. To this, da Lentini, or whoever else invented the form, added two tercets to the Strambotto in order to create the 14-line Sicilian sonnet.[3]

In contrast, Hassanaly Ladha[4] has argued that both the sonnet's structure and content show continuity with Arabic poetic forms and cannot be so easily reduced to the "invention" of Giacomo de Lentini or any member of the Sicilian School. Ladha notes that "in its Sicilian beginnings, the sonnet evinces literary and epistemological contact with the qasida",[5] and emphasizes that the sonnet did not emerge simultaneously with its supposedly defining 14-line structure. "Tellingly, attempts to close off the sonnet from its Arabic predecessors depend upon a definition of the new lyric to which Giacomo's poetry does not conform: surviving in thirteenth-century recensions, his poems appear not in fourteen, but rather six lines, including four rows, each with two hemistiches, and two "tercets", each in a line extending over two rows."[6] In this view, the sonnet should be seen as continuous with a broader Mediterranean tradition of lyric poetry. "[T]he Sicilian sonnet alludes to songs and lyrics throughout the Mediterranean, including the Sicilian strambotto, the Provençal canso, the Spanish muwashshah and zajal, and the Arabic qasida, amongst others."[7]

Guittone d'Arezzo (c. 1235–1294) rediscovered the sonnet form and brought it to Tuscany where he adapted it to his language when he founded the Siculo-Tuscan School, or Guittonian school of poetry (1235–1294). He wrote almost 250 sonnets.[8] Other Italian poets of the time, including Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) and Guido Cavalcanti (c. 1250–1300), wrote sonnets, but the most famous early sonneteer was Petrarch. Other fine examples were written by Michelangelo.

The structure of a typical Italian sonnet of the time included two parts that together formed a compact form of "argument". First, the octave forms the "proposition", which describes a "problem" or "question", followed by a sestet (two tercets) which proposes a "resolution". Typically, the ninth line initiates what is called the "turn", or "volta", which signals the move from proposition to resolution. Even in sonnets that do not strictly follow the problem/resolution structure, the ninth line still often marks a "turn" by signaling a change in the tone, mood, or stance of the poem.

Later, the ABBA ABBA pattern became the standard for Italian sonnets. For the sestet there were two different possibilities: CDE CDE and CDC CDC. In time, other variants on this rhyming scheme were introduced, such as CDCDCD. Petrarch typically used an ABBA ABBA pattern for the octave, followed by either CDE CDE or CDC CDC rhymes in the sestet. The Crybin variant of the Italian sonnet has the rhyme scheme ABBA CDDC EFG EFG.

Dante's variation[edit]

Most Sonnets in Dante's La Vita Nuova are Petrarchan (here used as a purely stylistic term since Dante predated Petrarch). Chapter VII gives sonnet "O voi che per la via", with two sestets (AABAAB AABAAB) and two quatrains (CDDC CDDC), and Ch. VIII, "Morte villana", with two sestets (AABBBA AABBBA) and two quatrains (CDDC CDDC).

In Catalan[edit]

One of the earliest sonnet in Catalan was written by Pere Torroella (1436-1486).[9] In the 16th century, the most prolific and subtle Catalan writer of sonnets was Pere Serafí,[10] author of over 60 published between 1560 and 1565.

In French[edit]

In French poetry, sonnets are traditionally composed in the French alexandrine line, which consists of twelve syllables with a caesura in the middle.

In the 16th century, around Ronsard (1524–1585), Joachim du Bellay (1522–1560) and Jean Antoine de Baïf (1532–1589), there formed a group of radical young noble poets of the court (generally known today as La Pléiade, although use of this term is debated), who began writing in, amongst other forms of poetry, the Petrarchan sonnet cycle (developed around an amorous encounter or an idealized woman). The character of La Pléiade literary program was given in Du Bellay's manifesto, the "Defense and Illustration of the French Language" (1549), which maintained that French (like the Tuscan of Petrarch and Dante) was a worthy language for literary expression and which promulgated a program of linguistic and literary production (including the imitation of Latin and Greek genres) and purification.

In the aftermath of the Wars of Religion, French Catholic jurist and poet Jean de La Ceppède published the Theorems, a sequence of more than 500 Alexandrine sonnets, with non-traditional rhyme schemes, about the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Drawing upon the Gospels, Greek and Roman Mythology, and the Fathers of the Church, La Ceppède was praised by Saint Francis de Sales for transforming "the Pagan Muses into Christian ones." La Ceppède's sonnets often attack the Calvinist doctrine of a judgmental and unforgiving God by focusing on Christ's passionate love for the human race. Long forgotten, the 20th century witnessed a revival of interest in La Ceppède and his sonnets are now regarded as classic works of French poetry.

By the late 17th century poets on increasingly relied on stanza forms incorporating rhymed couplets, and by the 18th century fixed-form poems – and, in particular, the sonnet – were largely avoided. The resulting versification – less constrained by meter and rhyme patterns than Renaissance poetry – more closely mirrored prose.[11]

The Romantics were responsible for a return to (and sometimes a modification of) many of the fixed-form poems used during the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as for the creation of new forms. The sonnet however was little used until the Parnassians brought it back into favor,[12] and the sonnet would subsequently find its most significant practitioner in Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867).

The traditional French sonnet form was however significantly modified by Baudelaire, who used 32 different forms of sonnet with non-traditional rhyme patterns to great effect in his Les Fleurs du mal.[13]

In Occitan[edit]

The sole confirmed surviving sonnet in the Occitan language is confidently dated to 1284, and is conserved only in troubadour manuscript P, an Italian chansonnier of 1310, now XLI.42 in the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence.[14] It was written by Paolo Lanfranchi da Pistoia and is addressed to Peter III of Aragon. It employs the rhyme scheme ABAB ABAB CDCDCD. This poem is historically interesting for its information on north Italian perspectives concerning the War of the Sicilian Vespers, the conflict between the Angevins and Aragonese for Sicily.[14] Peter III and the Aragonese cause was popular in northern Italy at the time and Paolo's sonnet is a celebration of his victory over the Angevins and Capetians in the Aragonese Crusade:

   Valenz Senher, rei dels Aragones
a qi prez es honors tut iorn enansa,
remembre vus, Senher, del Rei franzes
qe vus venc a vezer e laiset Fransa
   Ab dos sos fillz es ab aqel d'Artes;
hanc no fes colp d'espaza ni de lansa
e mainz baros menet de lur paes:
jorn de lur vida said n'auran menbransa.
   Nostre Senhier faccia a vus compagna
per qe en ren no vus qal[la] duptar;
tals quida hom qe perda qe gazaingna.
   Seigner es de la terra e de la mar,
per qe lo Rei Engles e sel d'Espangna
ne varran mais, vorres aiudar.
   Valiant Lord, king of the Aragonese
to whom honour grows every day closer,
remember, Lord, the French king[15]
that has come to find you and has left France
   With his two sons[16] and that one of Artois;[17]
but they have not dealt a blow with sword or lance
and many barons have left their country:
but a day will come when they will have some to remember.
   Our Lord make yourself a company
in order that you might fear nothing;
that one who would appear to lose might win.
   Lord of the land and the sea,
as whom the king of England[18] and that of Spain[19]
are not worth as much, if you wish to help them.

An Occitan sonnet, dated to 1321 and assigned to one "William of Almarichi", is found in Jean de Nostredame and cited in Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni's, Istoria della volgar poesia. It congratulates Robert of Naples on his recent victory. Its authenticity is dubious. There are also two poorly regarded sonnets by the Italian Dante de Maiano

In Spanish[edit]

According to Willis Barnstone, the introduction of the sonnet into Spanish language poetry began with a chance meeting in 1526 between the Catalan poet Juan Boscán and Andrea Navagero, the Venetian Ambassador to the Spanish Court. While the Ambassador was accompanying King Carlos V on a state visit to the Alhambra, he encountered Boscán along the banks of the Darro River in Granada. As they talked, Navagero strongly urged Boscán to introduce the sonnet and other Italian forms into Spanish poetry. A few days later, Boscán began trying to compose sonnets as he rode home and found the form, "of a very capable disposition to receive whatever material, whether grave or subtle or difficult or easy, and in itself good for joining with any style that we find among the approved ancient authors."[20]

In more modern times, Juan Ramón Jiménez wrote Sonetos espirituales 1914–1916 ("Spiritual Sonnets),[21][22] and in 1936 Federico García Lorca compiled his Sonetos del amor oscuro (Sonnets of Dark Love), which remained unpublished until after his death.[23] In Mascarilla y trébol (Mask and Clover, 1938), the final volume which marks the height of her poetic experimentation, Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni included what she termed "antisonnets," or poems that used many of the versification structures of traditional sonnets but did not follow the traditional rhyme scheme.[24] The later sonnets of Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges are radically innovative in both form and content, drawing upon the elements of both magical realism and metafiction.[25]

In Portuguese[edit]

Sonnets by Portugal's national poet, Luís de Camões generally follow the styles of Italian poetry,[26][27][28] but in them the influence of the Spanish pioneers of the form has also been discerned.[29]

Germanic languages[edit]

Dutch poetry[edit]

In the Netherlands Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft introduced sonnets in the Baroque style, of which Mijn lief, mijn lief, mijn lief: soo sprack mijn lief mij toe presents a notable example of sound and word play.[30] Another of his sonnets, dedicated to Hugo Grotius, was later translated by Edmund Gosse.[31]

In later centuries the sonnet form was returned to by successive waves of innovators in an attempt to breathe new life into Dutch poetry when, in their eyes, it had lost its way. For the generation of the 1880s it was Jacques Perk's sonnet sequence Mathilde which served as a rallying cry. In the early years of the new century, Martinus Nijhoff wrote notable sonnets before turning to more modernistic models.[32] At the end of the 20th century, poets such as Gerrit Komrij and Jan Kal used the sonnet as part of their return to a new formalism in reaction to the experimentalism of earlier decades.[33]



William Shakespeare, in the famous "Chandos" portrait. Artist and authenticity unconfirmed. National Portrait Gallery (UK).

In English, both the English (or Shakespearean) sonnet and the Italian Petrarchan sonnet are traditionally written in iambic pentameter.

The first known sonnets in English, written by Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, used the Italian, Petrarchan form, as did sonnets by later English poets, including John Milton, Thomas Gray, William Wordsworth and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

When English sonnets were introduced by Thomas Wyatt (1503–1542) in the early 16th century, his sonnets and those of his contemporary the Earl of Surrey were chiefly translations and adaptations from the Italian of Dante Alighieri and Petrarch and from the French of Ronsard and others. While it was Wyatt who introduced the sonnet into English poetry, it was Surrey who developed the rhyme scheme – ABAB CDCD EFEF GG – which now characterizes the English sonnet. Having previously circulated in manuscripts only, both poets' sonnets were first published in Richard Tottel's Songes and Sonnetts, better known as Tottel's Miscellany (1557).

It was, however, Sir Philip Sidney's sequence Astrophel and Stella (1591) that started the English vogue for sonnet sequences. The next two decades saw sonnet sequences by William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, Samuel Daniel, Fulke Greville, William Drummond of Hawthornden, and many others. These sonnets were all essentially inspired by the Petrarchan tradition, and generally treat of the poet's love for some woman, with the exception of Shakespeare's sequence of 154 sonnets. 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. The form consists of fourteen lines structured as three quatrains and a couplet. The third quatrain generally introduces an unexpected sharp thematic or imagistic "turn", the volta. In Shakespeare's sonnets, however, the volta usually comes in the couplet, and usually summarizes the theme of the poem or introduces a fresh new look at the theme. With only a rare exception (for example, Shakespeare's Sonnet 145 in iambic tetrameter), the meter is iambic pentameter.

This example, Shakespeare's "Sonnet 116", illustrates the form (with some typical variances one may expect when reading an Elizabethan-age sonnet with modern eyes):

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, (C)**
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)*

* PRONUNCIATION/RHYME: Note changes in pronunciation since composition.
** PRONUNCIATION/METER: "Fixed" pronounced as two-syllables, "fix-ed".
*** RHYME/METER: Feminine-rhyme-ending, eleven-syllable alternative.

The Prologue to Romeo and Juliet is also a sonnet, as is Romeo and Juliet's first exchange in Act One, Scene Five, lines 104–117, beginning with "If I profane with my unworthiest hand" (104) and ending with "Then move not while my prayer's effect I take" (117).[34] The Epilogue to Henry V is also in the form of a sonnet.


A variant on the English form is the Spenserian sonnet, named after Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599), in which the rhyme scheme is ABAB BCBC CDCD EE. The linked rhymes of his quatrains suggest the linked rhymes of such Italian forms as terza rima. This example is taken from Amoretti:

Happy ye leaves! whenas those lily hands

Happy ye leaves. whenas those lily hands, (A)
Which hold my life in their dead doing might, (B)
Shall handle you, and hold in love's soft bands, (A)
Like captives trembling at the victor's sight. (B)
And happy lines on which, with starry light, (B)
Those lamping eyes will deign sometimes to look,(C)
And read the sorrows of my dying sprite, (B)
Written with tears in heart's close bleeding book. (C)
And happy rhymes! bathed in the sacred brook (C)
Of Helicon, whence she derived is, (D)
When ye behold that angel's blessed look, (C)
My soul's long lacked food, my heaven's bliss. (D)
Leaves, lines, and rhymes seek her to please alone, (E)
Whom if ye please, I care for other none. (E)

17th century[edit]

In the 17th century, the sonnet was adapted to other purposes, with Metaphysical poets John Donne and George Herbert writing religious sonnets (see Donne's Holy Sonnets), and John Milton using the sonnet as a general meditative poem. Probably Milton's most famous sonnet is "When I Consider How My Light is Spent", titled by a later editor "On His Blindness". Both the Shakespearean and Petrarchan rhyme schemes were popular throughout this period, as well as many variants.

On His Blindness by Milton, gives a sense of the Petrarchan rhyme scheme:

When I consider how my light is spent (A)
 Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, (B)
 And that one talent which is death to hide, (B)
 Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent (A)
To serve therewith my Maker, and present (A)
 My true account, lest he returning chide; (B)
 "Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?" (B)
 I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent (A)
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need (C)
 Either man's work or his own gifts; who best (D)
 Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state (E)
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed (C)
 And post o'er land and ocean without rest; (D)
 They also serve who only stand and wait." (E)

18th-19th centuries[edit]

The fashion for the sonnet went out with the Restoration, and hardly any were written between 1670 and the second half of the 18th century. Amongst the first to revive the form was Thomas Warton, who took Milton for his model. Around him at Oxford were grouped those associated with him in this revival, including John Codrington Bampfylde, William Lisle Bowles, Thomas Russell and Henry Headley, some of whom published small collections of sonnets alone.[35] Among those who later acknowledged the impact of Bowles' sonnets on them were Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Charles Lamb.[36] And among the several other sonnet writers who were to constellate themselves about Warton's group was Charlotte Smith, to whose Elegaic Sonnets (1784 onwards) William Wordsworth acknowledged a considerable debt.

Wordsworth himself wrote hundreds of sonnets, among the best-known of which are "Upon Westminster Bridge" and "The world is too much with us". His "London, 1802" is addressed to Milton, on whose sonnets his own were essentially modelled. Later Romantic poets like Keats and Shelley also wrote major sonnets. Keats's sonnets used formal and rhetorical patterns inspired partly by Shakespeare, while Shelley innovated radically, creating his own rhyme scheme for the sonnet "Ozymandias". In her later years, Felicia Hemans took up the form in her series Sonnets Devotional and Memorial. Indeed, sonnets were written throughout the 19th century, but, apart from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese and the sonnets of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, there were few very successful traditional sonnets.

While the sonnet had now been adapted into a general-purpose form of great flexibility, by the end of the 19th century later writers had begun introducing their own variations. Modern Love (1862) by George Meredith is a collection of fifty 16-line sonnets about the failure of his first marriage. Several major sonnets by Gerard Manley Hopkins, such as "The Windhover", were written in long-lined sprung rhythm, and he was also responsible for sonnet variants such as the 1012-line curtal sonnet "Pied Beauty" and the 24-line caudate sonnet "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire". Hopkins' poetry was, however, not published until 1918.[37]

20th century[edit]

This flexibility was extended even further in the 20th century.

Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote the major sonnet "Leda and the Swan", which uses half rhymes. Wilfred Owen's sonnet "Anthem for Doomed Youth" is another sonnet of the early 20th century. W. H. Auden wrote two sonnet sequences and several other sonnets throughout his career, and widened the range of rhyme-schemes used considerably. Auden also wrote one of the first unrhymed sonnets in English, "The Secret Agent" (1928).

While living in Provence during the 1930s, Anglo-South African poet Roy Campbell documented the change in his views from sympathy for Mithraism to his ultimate conversion to Roman Catholicism in the Symbolist-inspired sonnet sequence Mithraic Emblems.[38] Later, Campbell became a war poet and wrote other sonnets after witnessing the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War with his family in Toledo. Of these, the best are Hot Rifles, Christ in Uniform, The Alcazar Mined, and Toledo 1936.[39]

Half-rhymed, unrhymed, and even unmetrical sonnets have been very popular since 1950; perhaps the best works in the genre are Seamus Heaney's Glanmore Sonnets and Clearances, both of which use half rhymes, and Geoffrey Hill's mid-period sequence "An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England". Without a doubt, the most ambitious sonnet project of the late 20th century is Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate (1986), a comic celebration of life in San Francisco in the early 1980s in nearly 600 sonnets (even the acknowledgements and table of contents are sonnets).[citation needed]

In American literature[edit]

In American poetry, Anne Bradstreet wrote the first sonnet by a Colonial American poet, "To My Dear and Loving Husband," in about 1678. Phillis Wheatley wrote the first known sonnet by a Colonial African American poet in 1768, "To the King's Most Excellent Majesty," published in 1773.[40] David Humphreys subsequently published a sonnet in 1776, right before he left Yale College to fight as a colonel in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Humphreys' sonnet was titled Addressed to my Friends at Yale College, on my leaving them to join the Army. Other major American poets to use the sonnet form include William Lloyd Garrison and Edgar Allan Poe, though many other poets had used it after Humphreys[41] [42] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote and translated many sonnets, using the Italian rhyme scheme, including Michelangelo's tribute to Dante Alighieri. And among Emma Lazarus' many sonnets is perhaps the best-known in American poetry, "The New Colossus,"[43] which celebrates the Statue of Liberty and its role in welcoming immigrants to the New World.

In 1928, painter John Allan Wyeth published This Man's Army: A War in Fifty-Odd Sonnets, tracing his military service with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. According to Dana Gioia, who wrote the introduction to the 2008 republication, Wyeth is the only American poet of the Great War who can stand comparison to British war poets, a claim corroborated by Jon Stallworthy in his review of the work.[44] Among major poets of the early Modernist period, Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and E. E. Cummings all used the sonnet regularly.

Recent scholarship has recovered many African American sonnets that were not anthologized in standard American poetry volumes. Important nineteenth and early twentieth century African American sonnet writers have included Paul Laurence Dunbar, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Sterling A. Brown.[45] Several African American women poets won prizes for volumes that included sonnets, such as Margaret Walker (Yale Poetry Series) Gwendolyn Brooks (Pulitzer Prize), Rita Dove (Pulitzer Prize), and Natasha Trethewey (Pulitzer Prize).[46] [47]

The question of a possible decline in sonnet writing and the appropriateness of sonnets for African American poets have both been subjects of contention. Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka both publicly questioned the sonnet for Black poetry, though both published sonnets.[48] In the introduction to the 2005 anthology Sonnets: 150 Contemporary Sonnets, William Baer noted that in the late 1960s a number of writers declared that the sonnet was dead, although many important poets – including Richard Wilbur, Howard Nemerov, Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, and Anthony Hecht – continued to use the form and Robert Lowell chose to publish five books of unrhymed "American sonnets" at that period, including his Pulitzer Prize volume The Dolphin (1973). Between 1994 and 2017, the magazines The Formalist and then Measure have sponsored the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award annually offered for the best new sonnet.

In Canadian poetry[edit]

In Canada during the last decades of the 19th century, the Confederation Poets and especially Archibald Lampman were known for their sonnets, which were mainly on pastoral themes.[49]

Canadian poet Seymour Mayne has published a few collections of word sonnets, and is one of the chief innovators of a form using a single word per line to capture its honed perception.[50]


Paulus Melissus (1539–1602) was the first to introduce both the sonnet and terza rima into German poetry. In his lifetime he was recognized as an author fully versed in Latin love poetry.[51]

The sonnet became especially popular in Germany through the work of Georg Rudolf Weckherlin and reached prominence through the poetry of the German Romantics.[52]

Germany's national poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, also wrote many sonnets, using a rhyme scheme derived from Italian poetry. After his death, Goethe's followers created the German sonnet, which is rhymed . a. b. b. a. . . b. c. c. b. . . c. d. d. . . c. d. d.

Sonnets were also written by August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Paul von Heyse, and others who established a tradition that reached fruition in the Sonnets to Orpheus,[53] a cycle of 55 sonnets written in 1922 by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926). It was first published the following year.[54]

Rilke, who is "widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets",[55] wrote the cycle in a period of three weeks experiencing what he described as a "savage creative storm".[56] Inspired by the news of the death of Wera Ouckama Knoop (1900–1919), a playmate of Rilke's daughter Ruth, he dedicated them as a memorial, or Grab-Mal (literally "grave-marker"), to her memory.[57]

In 1920, German war poet Anton Schnack, whom Patrick Bridgwater has dubbed, "one of the two unambiguously great," German poets of World War I and, "the only German language poet whose work can be compared with that of Wilfred Owen," published the sonnet sequence, Tier rang gewaltig mit Tier ("Beast Strove Mightily with Beast").[58]

Also according to Bridgwater, "The poems in Tier gewaltig mit Tier, follow an apparently chronological course which suggests that Schnack served first in France and then in Italy. They trace the course of the war, as he experienced it, from departing for the front, through countless experiences to which few other German poets with the exception of Stramm have done justice in more than isolated poems, to retreat and the verge of defeat."[59]

The 60 sonnets that comprise Tier rang gewaltig mit Tier, "are dominated by themes of night and death."[60] Although his ABBACDDCEFGEFG rhyme scheme is typical of the sonnet form, Schnack also, "writes in the long line in free rhythms developed in Germany by Ernst Stadler."[60] Patrick Bridgwater, writing in 1985, called Tier rang gewaltig mit Tier, "without question the best single collection produced by a German war poet in 1914-18." Bridgwater adds, however, that Anton Schnack, "is to this day virtually unknown even in Germany."[61]

Slavic languages[edit]

In Czech[edit]

Karel Hynek Mácha

The sonnet was introduced into Czech literature at the beginning of the 19th century. The first great Czech sonneteer was Ján Kollár, who wrote a cycle of sonnets named Slávy Dcera (The daughter of Sláva / The daughter of fame[62]). While Kollár was Slovak, he was a supporter of Pan-Slavism and wrote in Czech, as he disagreed that Slovak should be a separate language. Kollár's magnum opus was planned as a Slavic epic poem as great as Dante's Divine Comedy. It consists of The Prelude written in quantitative hexameters, and sonnets. The number of poems increased in subsequent editions and came up to 645.[63] The greatest Czech romantic poet, Karel Hynek Mácha also wrote many sonnets. In the second half of the 19th century Jaroslav Vrchlický published Sonety samotáře (Sonnets of a Solitudinarian). Another poet, who wrote many sonnets was Josef Svatopluk Machar. He published Čtyři knihy sonetů (The Four Books of Sonnets). In the 20th century Vítězslav Nezval wrote the cycle 100 sonetů zachránkyni věčného studenta Roberta Davida (One Hundred Sonnets for the Woman who Rescued Perpetual Student Robert David). After the Second World War the sonnet was the favourite form of Oldřich Vyhlídal. Czech poets use different metres for sonnets, Kollár and Mácha used decasyllables, Vrchlický iambic pentameter, Antonín Sova free verse, and Jiří Orten the Czech alexandrine. Ondřej Hanus wrote a monograph about Czech Sonnets in the first half of the twentieth century.[64]


"Italian sonnet" by Witold Szwedkowski, example of haptic poetry

The sonnet was introduced into Polish literature in the 16th century by Jan Kochanowski,[65] Mikołaj Sęp-Szarzyński and Sebastian Grabowiecki.[66]

In 1826, Poland's national poet, Adam Mickiewicz, wrote a sonnet sequence known as the Crimean Sonnets, after the Tsar sentenced him to internal exile in the Crimean Peninsula. Mickiewicz's sonnet sequence focuses heavily on the culture and Islamic religion of the Crimean Tatars. The sequence was translated into English by Edna Worthley Underwood.[67]

Sonnets were also written by Adam Asnyk, Jan Kasprowicz and Leopold Staff. Polish poets usually shape their sonnets according to Italian or French practice. The Shakespearean sonnet is not commonly used. Kasprowicz used a Shelleyan rhyme scheme: ABA BCB CDC DED EE.[68] Polish sonnets are typically written in either hendecasyllables (5+6 syllables) or Polish alexandrines (7+6 syllables).


In the 18th century, after the westernizing reforms of Peter the Great, Russian poets (among others Alexander Sumarokov and Mikhail Kheraskov) began to write sonnets. Alexander Pushkin's novel in verse Eugene Onegin consists almost entirely of 389 stanzas of iambic tetrameter with the unusual rhyme scheme "AbAbCCddEffEgg" (the uppercase letters represent feminine rhymes while the lowercase letters represent masculine rhymes). This form has come to be known as the "Onegin stanza" or the "Pushkin sonnet."[69]

Unlike other traditional sonnet forms, the Onegin stanza does not divide into smaller stanzas of four lines or two in an obvious way but is more variable. In later Russian poetry, the form has been utilized by authors as diverse as Mikhail Lermontov, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Jurgis Baltrušaitis, and Valery Pereleshin, in genres ranging from one-stanza lyrical pieces to voluminous autobiography.[citation needed] The stanza form was also adopted in Britain, as in John Fuller's "The Illusionists" (1980) and Jon Stallworthy's "The Nutcracker" (1987) as well as in Vikram Seth's 1986 novel The Golden Gate.[70]

At the beginning of the 20th century, in the Silver Age of Russian Poetry, sonnets were written by Valery Bryusov, Konstantin Balmont, Innokenty Annensky, Maximilian Voloshin and many others. In the Soviet epoch there were few sonnets and the form was used most often for satirical purposes.[citation needed]


In Slovenia the sonnet became a national verse form. The greatest Slovenian poet, France Prešeren,[71] wrote many sonnets. His best known work worldwide is Sonetni venec (A Wreath of Sonnets),[72] which is an example of crown of sonnets. Another work of his is the sequence Sonetje nesreče (Sonnets of Misfortune). In writing sonnets Prešeren was followed by many later poets. After the Second World War sonnets remained very popular. Slovenian poets write both traditional rhymed sonnets and modern ones, unrhymed, in free verse. Among them are Milan Jesih and Aleš Debeljak. The metre for sonnets in Slovenian poetry is iambic pentameter with feminine rhymes, based both on the Italian endecasillabo and German iambic pentameter.

Celtic languages[edit]

In Irish[edit]

Although sonnets had long been written in English by poets of Irish heritage such as Sir Aubrey de Vere, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Tom Kettle, and Patrick Kavanagh, the sonnet form failed to enter Irish poetry in the Irish language. This changed, however, during the Gaelic revival when Dublin-born Liam Gógan (1891–1979) was dismissed from his post in the National Museum of Ireland and imprisoned at Frongoch internment camp following the Easter Rising. There he became the first poet to write sonnets in the Irish language.[73]

In 2009, poet Muiris Sionóid published a complete translation of William Shakespeare's 154 sonnets into Irish under the title Rotha Mór an Ghrá ("The Great Wheel of Love").[74] In an article about his translations, Sionóid wrote that Irish poetic forms are completely different from those of other languages and that both the sonnet form and the iambic pentameter line had long been considered "entirely unsuitable" for composing poetry in Irish. In his translations, Soinóid chose to closely reproduce Shakespeare's rhyme scheme and rhythms while rendering into Irish.[75]

Indian languages[edit]

In the Indian subcontinent, sonnets have been written in the Assamese, Bengali, Dogri, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Sindhi and Urdu languages.[76]

In Urdu[edit]

Urdu poets, also influenced by English and other European poets, took to introducing the sonnet into Urdu poetry rather late.[77] Azmatullah Khan (1887–1923) is believed to have introduced this format to Urdu literature in the very early part of the 20th century. The other renowned Urdu poets who wrote sonnets were Akhtar Junagarhi, Akhtar Sheerani, Noon Meem Rashid, Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi, Salaam Machhalishahari and Wazir Agha.[78]

See also[edit]

Associated forms


  1. ^ A Poet of the Passion of Christ by Christopher O. Blum, Crisis Magazine, April 2, 2012.
  2. ^ Ernest Hatch Wilkins, The invention of the sonnet, and other studies in Italian literature (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e letteratura, 1959), pp. 11–39
  3. ^ William Baer (2005), Sonnets: 150 Contemporary Sonnets, University of Evansville Press. Pages 153-154.
  4. ^ Hassanaly Ladha's profile at University of Connecticut
  5. ^ Ladha, Hassanaly, "From Bayt to Stanza: Arabic Khayāl and the Advent of Italian Vernacular Poetry": Exemplaria: Vol 32, No 1 (, p. 17. Retrieved 7 July 2021
  6. ^ Ladha, p. 15.
  7. ^ Ladha, p. 26, n.80.
  8. ^ Medieval Italy: an encyclopedia, Volume 2, Christopher Kleinhenz
  9. ^ Pere Torroella
  10. ^ Barry Taylor, Alejandro Coroleu, Humanism and Christian Letters in Early Modern Iberia (1480-1630)
  11. ^ Henri Morier, Dictionnaire de poétique et de rhétorique. Paris: PUF, 1961. p. 385.
  12. ^ Morier, p. 385. Vigny wrote no sonnets; Hugo only wrote 3.
  13. ^ Monier, pp. 390–393. Morier terms these sonnets faux sonnets, or "false sonnets"
  14. ^ a b Bertoni, 119.
  15. ^ Philip III of France
  16. ^ Philip the Fair and Charles of Valois
  17. ^ Robert II of Artois
  18. ^ Edward I of England
  19. ^ Alfonso X of Castile
  20. ^ Barnstone (1993), Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet, page 3.
  21. ^ Foundation, Poetry (12 October 2020). "July 1953 | Poetry Magazine". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  22. ^ "The works of Juan Ramon Jimenez". Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  23. ^ Tremlett, Giles (10 May 2012). "Name of Federico García Lorca's lover emerges after 70 years". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  24. ^ Kuhnheim, Jill (Autumn 2008). "The Politics of Form: Three Twentieth-Century Spanish American Poets and the Sonnet" (PDF). Hispanic Review: 391. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  25. ^ Barnstone (1993), Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet, pages 191-218.
  26. ^ Mourão e Vasconcelos (1847). Os Lusiadas: nova edicao segundo a do Morgado Matteus, com as notas e vida do autor pelo mesmo, corrigida segunda as edicoes de Hamburgo e de Lisboa, e enrequecida de novas notas e d'uma prefaçao pel C.L. de Moura (in Portuguese). Didot. pp. 72–81.
  27. ^ Moisés, Massaud (1997). A literatura portuguesa (in Portuguese). Editora Cultrix. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-85-316-0231-3.
  28. ^ Bergel, Antonio J. Alías. "Camões laureado: Legitimación y uso poético de Camões durante el bilingüismo ibérico en el "período filipino"". Espéculo — Revista de estudios literarios. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  29. ^ "Luís de Camões e Ausias March". Península — Revista de Estudos Ibéricos (2003). p. 178.
  30. ^ Harold B. Segel, The Baroque Poem, New York, 1974, pp.268-9
  31. ^ Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft (1581–1647), "To Hugo Grotius"
  32. ^ Reinder P. Meijer, Literature of the Low Countries, Martinus Nijhoff, 1978; pp.237-8, 304-5
  33. ^ Turning Tides (ed. Peter van de Kamp), Story Line Press, 1994, p.389
  34. ^ Folger's Edition of "Romeo and Juliet"
  35. ^ Bethan Roberts, Charlotte Smith and the Sonnet, OUP 2019, p.19
  36. ^ Poetry Foundation, William Lisle Bowles
  37. ^ Norman White, "Hopkins, Gerard Manley (1844–1889)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
  38. ^ Joseph Pearce (2001), Roy Campbell: Selected Poems, pages 44-46.
  39. ^ Joseph Pearce (2001), Roy Campbell: Selected Poems, Saint Austin Press, pages 48-50.
  40. ^ "Forms of Contention: Influence and the African American Sonnet Tradition".
  41. ^ "Forms of Contention: Influence and the African American Sonnet Tradition".
  42. ^ "The Sonnet in American Literature".
  43. ^ Full texts at Sonnet Central
  44. ^ Dana Gioia, John Allan Wyeth: Soldier Poet, St Austin Review, March/April 2020, p.5.
  45. ^ Best American Poetry
  46. ^ "Forms of Contention: Influence and the African American Sonnet Tradition".
  47. ^ "African American Sonnet: A Literary Tradition".
  48. ^ "Forms of Contention: Influence and the African American Sonnet Tradition".
  49. ^ Malcolm Ross, Introduction, Poets of the Confederation (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1960), vii-xii
  50. ^ See Ricochet: Word Sonnets / Sonnets d'un mot Archived 29 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine, by Seymour Mayne, French translation: Sabine Huynh, University of Ottawa Press, 2011.
  51. ^ Erich Schmidt (1885), "Melissus, Paul Schede", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), 21, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 293–297
  52. ^ Edward Hirsch and Eavan Boland (2008), The Making of a Sonnet: A Norton Anthology, page 341.
  53. ^ Hirsch and Boland (2008), page 341.
  54. ^ The full title is listed as Die Sonette an Orpheus: Geschrieben als ein Grab-Mal für Wera Ouckama Knoop (translated as Sonnets to Orpheus: Written as a Monument for Wera Ouckama Knoop)
  55. ^ Biography: Rainer Maria Rilke 1875–1926 on the Poetry Foundation website. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  56. ^ Polikoff, Daniel Joseph. In the Image of Orpheus Rilke: a Soul History. (Wilmette, Illinois: Chiron Publications, 2011), 585-588.
  57. ^ Freedman, Ralph. Life of a Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke. (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1998), p. 491
  58. ^ Patrick Bridgwater (1985), The German Poets of the First World War, page 96.
  59. ^ Patrick Bridgwater (1985), The German Poets of the First World War, page 100.
  60. ^ a b Patrick Bridgwater (1985), The German Poets of the First World War, page 97.
  61. ^ Patrick Bridgwater (1985), The German Poets of the First World War, page 96.
  62. ^ Here the poet used a pun on the word sláva (fame) and the general name for Slavic nations, suggesting that the Slavs are predestined to heroic deeds and great fame among the nations.
  63. ^ Full text at Slovak digital library
  64. ^ Hanus, Ondřej. "Český sonet v první polovině 20. Století (Czech Sonnet in the First Half of the Twentieth Century)". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  65. ^ Lucylla Pszczołowska, Wiersz polski. zarys historyczny, Wrocław 1997, p.95 (In Polish).
  66. ^ Mirosława Hanusiewicz, Świat podzielony. O poezji Sebastiana Grabowieckiego, Lublin 1994, p. 133 (In Polish).
  67. ^ Edna W. Underwood, "Sonnets from the Crimea/A biographical sketch "Adam Mickiewicz: A Biographical Sketch", in Sonnets from the Crimea, Paul Elder and Company, San Francisco (1917).
  68. ^ Text available at:
  69. ^ The Poet's Garret.
  70. ^ "Onegin Stanza". Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  71. ^ Biography at Encyclopædia Britannica
  72. ^ English Translation on-line
  73. ^ Leabhar na hAthghabhála, Poems of Repossession, ed. by Louis de Paor (Bloodaxe Books). Page 40.
  74. ^ "Shakespeare's work has been translated into Irish - and it sounds amazing", The Irish Post March 14, 2018.
  75. ^ Aistriú na Soinéad go Gaeilge: Saothar Grá! Translating the Sonnets to Irish: A Labour of Love by Muiris Sionóid.
  76. ^ The Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature (Volume Five), 1992, pp. 4140–4146
  77. ^ Encyclopedic Dictionary of Urdu literature, 2007, p. 565
  78. ^ Sani, Zarina (1979). Budha Darakhat. New Delhi: Bazm - e - Seemab. p. 99. OL 24596004M. Akhtar Junagarhi kaa sonnet ghaaliban 1914 kaa hai- Rashid kaa 1930 kaa aur Akhtar Sheerani ne andaazan 1933 se 1942 tak sonnet likhe- isii dauraan 1934 se 1936 tak Zia Fatehabadi ne bhi keii sonnet likhe (Akhtar Junagarhi's sonnet is from the year 1914. Rashid's sonnet is of 1930 and Akhtar Sheerani wrote sonnets between 1932 and 1942. During the period of 1932 to 1936, Zia Fatehabadi also wrote many sonnets)

Further reading[edit]

  • I. Bell, et al. A Companion to Shakespeare's Sonnets. Blackwell Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-4051-2155-6.
  • Bertoni, Giulio (1915). I Trovatori d'Italia: Biografie, testi, tradizioni, note. Rome: Società Multigrafica Editrice Somu.
  • T. W. H. Crosland. The English Sonnet. Hesperides Press, 2006. ISBN 1-4067-9691-3.
  • J. Fuller. The Oxford Book of Sonnets. Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-19-280389-1.
  • J. Fuller. The Sonnet. (The Critical Idiom: #26). Methuen & Co., 1972. ISBN 0-416-65690-0.
  • U. Hennigfeld. Der ruinierte Körper: Petrarkistische Sonette in transkultureller Perspektive. Königshausen & Neumann, 2008. ISBN 978-3-8260-3768-9.
  • J. Hollander. Sonnets: From Dante to the Present. Everyman's Library, 2001. ISBN 0-375-41177-1.
  • P. Levin. The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English. Penguin, 2001. ISBN 0-14-058929-5.
  • S. Mayne. Ricochet, Word Sonnets - Sonnets d'un mot. Translated by Sabine Huynh. University of Ottawa Press, 2011. ISBN 978-2-7603-0761-2
  • J. Phelan. The Nineteenth Century Sonnet. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. ISBN 1-4039-3804-0.
  • S. Regan. The Sonnet. Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-19-289307-6.
  • H. Robbins. Forms of Contention: Influence and the African American Sonnet Tradition. University of Georgia Press, 2020. ISBN 9780820357645.
  • M. R. G. Spiller. The Development of the Sonnet: An Introduction. Routledge, 1992. ISBN 0-415-08741-4.
  • M. R. G. Spiller. The Sonnet Sequence: A Study of Its Strategies. Twayne Pub., 1997. ISBN 0-8057-0970-3.

External links[edit]