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There is another type of sonnet called the Spenserian sonnet which was invented by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). His most famous work is ‘The Faerie Queene’. This is a moral allegory, a straightforward story that also has a second meaning or hidden message, where the characters and events are symbols to make a point about moral standards. He developed the stanza pattern used in ‘The Faerie Queene’ (a b a b b c b c c) which is a major work to form the Spenserian sonnet, which has the following rhyme pattern: a b a b b c b c c d c d e e.

There are other sonnets however that do not fit into any of the above structures. The sonnet ‘Ozymandias’ has a unique rhyming pattern of a b a b a c d c e d e f e f. It was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822). This sonnet is not about love or death but is a political message and is a moral poem. In the first line the poet speaks, introducing the traveller, who then tells the rest of the poem. The traveller describes a huge ruined sculpture of a king, Ozymandias that stands in the desert of “an antique land. ” The parts of the monumental sculpture are scattered on the sands.

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The face is partly buried, but one can still see its proud and sneering expression. Ozymandias thought himself to be all mighty and powerful but now he has been reduced to rubble as ‘Nothing beside remains. ‘ There is alliteration in the poem such as ‘survive, stamp’d’ this helps the flow of the poem and is also used with two contrasting words. There are other examples of alliteration for example ‘boundless and bare’ and king of kings. ‘ When the monument was put up the king intended to bully his rivals with the evidence of his power. Now all traces of his power have crumbled to dust.

Thus any powerful person can see from these ruins what happens when power is abused. Nothing will eventually be left of it except dust and fragments. The last line is saying that he desires every person to be equal: ‘Level sands stretch far away,’ has the metaphorical meaning that he wants everyone to be on a level plain with no-one thinking they are superior to others. The poem is about the fall of leadership and is promoting the idea of revolution to make everyone equal. The sonnet ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ was written in September, 1802 by Wordsworth (1770 – 1850).

It describes the two different views, the ‘country scene’ and the ‘heart of the city’ which could be seen from Westminster Bridge in those days. It has a rhyming scheme of a b b a a b b a c d c d c d. This is the same as the Italian sonnet, and is still divided into an octave and a sestet. The change in rhyming scheme, like the Petrarchan sonnet, also has a change in subject where the subject moves from looking at the beauty of the morning sun which covers the city to the quietness and ‘spiritual’ beauty of the city, which he admires.

Unlike the Petrarchan sonnet, however, this work does not present the problem in the octet and then ‘solve’ it in the sestet. Christina Rossetti uses the sonnet ‘Remember’ to describe the prospect of death. This has the rhyme pattern abbaabbacddece, which is a variation on the Petrarchan sonnet. It again has the octet and the sestet and the change in theme from one to the other. In the octet she is insistent that they should remember her when she is ‘gone away’, which is a euphemism for death.

The sestet however is more considered; where she says it would be far better if they forgot her for a while if afterwards, when they do remember, they are happy memories rather than sad. A modern sonnet ‘I Shall Return’ by Claude McKay is a powerful poem with great emotional power. Claude McKay left his home in Jamaica in 1912 and became a key figure in the American Black working class movement for equality. The first line, ‘I shall return again. I shall return’, which is repeated in the penultimate line, uses repetition to emphasize his longing and determination to go back to his homeland.

He uses colour throughout the sonnet; ‘golden noon, blue- black smoke to sapphire skies and blown blades. ‘ This appeals to the reader’s imagination and helps them to create the picturesque place as he remembers it in their own head. In several of the lines, for example, ‘That bathe the brown blades of the bending grasses’, ‘laugh and love’ and ‘watch with wonder-eyes’ the poet uses alliteration to immerse the reader into the scene of gentle flowing water. In the second quatrain the verb ‘loiter’ in the first line creates an image of time slowing down.

Repetition of the title opens the final quatrain as he appeals to our sense of hearing in describing Jamaican music as ‘the fiddle and fife. ‘ The final couplet is both the repetition of the first line using ‘again’ in a different position and the introduction of a new thought and feeling. Also the line ‘To ease my mind of long, long years of pain’ the word ‘long’ is again repeated to emphasize the time he has been away and the suffering he has experienced as a Black in a ‘White’ world. The tightness, compression and discipline of the sonnet form does not disguise but rather emphasises his love for Jamaica and his suffering since he left.

In conclusion therefore, the sonnet has developed from its traditional form albeit still retaining some of the aspects Petrarch may have once used centuries beforehand such as an octave/sestet structure. It was originally a formal love ‘song’ with high ideals and a rigid format. Shakespeare transformed it and made the sonnet more accessible and fun for the common man to enjoy. The sonnet has since evolved further and can be used in a wide variety of forms and for an even wider range of subject matter and can be easily read by audiences world-wide.

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