What Does a Sonnet Mean?

A sonnet is a special type of poetry that gets its name from the Italian word sonetto, which means “little song” or “little sound.” Although William Shakespeare, the famous English poet, is well known for his plays, he also wrote 154 sonnets (excluding the ones found within his plays).

Sonnets are lyrical poems consisting of 14 lines that follow a specific rhyming pattern. They often explore two contrasting characters, events, beliefs, or emotions. Poets use the sonnet form to examine the tension that exists between these two elements.

Various variations of sonnet structures have developed over time. The most common and simplest type is known as the English or Shakespearean sonnet.

Shakespearean sonnets consist of 14 lines, each containing 10 syllables and written in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a pattern in which an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable, repeated five times.

The sound of the human heartbeat, da-DUM, is sometimes used as an example of iambic pentameter: da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM. The first line of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 12” provides a good illustration of the da-DUM rhythm of iambic pentameter: When I do count the clock that tells the time

Shakespearean sonnets follow a specific rhyme pattern — a-b-a-b / c-d-c-d / e-f-e-f / g-g — and the final two lines form a rhyming couplet. “Sonnet 18,” also known as “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?,” is one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets:

a Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? b Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
a Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
b And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
c Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
d And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
c And every fair from fair sometime declines,
d By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
e But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
f Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
e Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
f When in eternal lines to time thou growest.
g So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
g So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Another important element of the sonnet is the volta — or “turn” — which occurs in the sonnet when there is a shift from one rhyme pattern to another, indicating a change in subject matter. In the above example, the volta happens in the ninth line when the word “But” signals a change in subject and the rhyme pattern shifts to e-f-e-f.

In addition to the English or Shakespearean sonnet, there are two other popular types of sonnets: the Spenserian sonnet (named after poet Edmund Spenser) and the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. These types of sonnets can be identified by their unique rhyming patterns. There are also more obscure types of sonnets, some of which do not have a recognizable rhyming pattern.

Throughout the years, many poets and writers have composed sonnets. Some of the most famous sonnet authors include John Donne, John Milton, Ezra Pound, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Give It a Shot

Are you skilled in the art of wordsmithery? If so, rise to the occasion and put your talents on display! Take hold of a pen, some paper, and prepare yourself to craft an extraordinary poem of your very own.

If you take pleasure in composing poetry and are struck with inspiration to write about a specific subject, go for it. Poems that emanate from the depths of the soul are the most captivating. If you are up for the challenge, give a sonnet a try!

If a sonnet seems daunting, fear not. You can start with a simple rhyming poem. Make it joyful or melancholic, humorous or nonsensical.

If you find yourself struggling to begin, utilize this random Poetry Line Generator for ideas on how to jumpstart your creative flow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *