Sonnets and Odes
PATRICK MOONEY, M.A.
ENGLISH 10, SUMMER SESSION A
30 JUNE 2105
Questions 1–4 (two points
– Identify the author of
– Say something else
salient about the
poem, such as:
pertinent about its
Question 5 (two points):
– Describe the form of
any poem from last
night’s reading as
possible, other than
poems I just recited.
Bonus questions (pick
only one; one point)
a) What is Percy Shelley’s
wife most famous for?
b) What position do Philip
Eubanks and John D.
Schaeffer take on
c) How many different
sonnets – and types of
sonnets – were you
assigned to read today?
Single closest answer
of all those who
attempt this question
gets the point.
The “about” game
A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees,
Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course
With rocks and stones and trees.
– William Wordsworth
Back to the sonnet
A form originating in Italy in the 13th century; the
Italian word sonetto means "little song."
– The first Italian sonneteer was Giacomo da
Lentini, but the most famous early Italian
sonneteer was Petrarca (called "Petrarch" in
Sonnets written more or less after the Italian model
are often called Italian or Petrarchan sonnets, even
though Petrarch did not invent the form.
a I met a traveller from an antique land,
b Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
a Stand in the desart. . . . Near them, on the sand,
b Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
a And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
c Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
d Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
c The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
e And on the pedestal, these words appear:
d My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
e Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
f Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
e Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
f The lone and level sand stretch far away.”
The Italian (“Petrarchan”) sonnet
Like almost all sonnet forms, this one has fourteen
– This is divided into an octet, or octave (the first
eight lines) and a sestet (the last six lines).
Typically, the octet sets up or describes a problem,
expresses a desire (often romantic), or otherwise
reflects on a situation that causes doubt or anxiety for
Typically, the rhyme scheme of the octet is abba
abba, though other variations occur.
The Italian (“Petrarchan”) sonnet
Typically, the sestet resolves the problem or
other tension set up by the octet.
The rhyme scheme for the sestet may be cdecde
or cdcdcd, though many other variations occur.
The separation between the octave and the
sestet is called the volta, an Italian word meaning
– Sometimes the volta is just referred to as “the
Wordsworth, “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge”
a Earth has not anything to show more fair:
b Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
b A sight so touching in its majesty:
a This City now doth, like a garment, wear
a The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
b Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
b Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
a All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
c Never did sun more beautifully steep
d In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
c Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
d The river glideth at his own sweet will:
c Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
d And all that mighty heart is lying still!
More on the English sonnet
The sonnet first enters English-language poetry in the
early 16th century with the English poet Thomas
The sonnet's place in English-language poetry was
cemented by Shakespeare, who wrote 154 sonnets
(not including those that are incorporated into his
Sonnets written after this pattern are often called
English or Shakespearean sonnets, even though
Shakespeare did not bring the form into English.
Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1536.
The English sonnet ...
Like the Petrarchan form, has fourteen lines, but
organized into three four-line quatrains and a final
– Typically, in Shakespeare's sonnets, the volta comes
between the last quatrain and the couplet.
– In pre-Shakespearean English sonnets, the volta often
comes between the second and third quatrains.
Generally in iambic pentameter (especially in English).
Shakespeare's sonnets often explicitly mock or otherwise
subvert the conventions of the Petrarchan sonnet.
One more sonnet form…
Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” consists of five
sonnets based on the Italian terza rima form.
– Terza rima is Italian for “third rhyme.”
– It was first used by Dante Alighieri in the Divine
– Stanzas are organized into tercets (three-line
– Rhyme scheme can go on as long as desired with
the pattern A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D …
a O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
b Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
a Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
b Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
c Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
b Who chariotest to their dark wintery bed
c The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
d Each like a corpse within its grave, until
c Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
d Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
e (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
d With living hues and odours plain and hill:
e Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
e Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!
Based on a classical Greek form.
Serious in approach and elevated in tone.
Traditionally a musical form, either chanted with
musical accompaniments or sung (with or without
An ode that adheres strictly to the Classical form has
a strophe, an antistrophe, and an epode.
There are also other forms, sometimes grouped
together as irregular odes.
John Keats’s Odes
Six written in 1819, considered to be some of his finest
Let’s take a close look at “Grecian Urn” first, then
The drawing of Sir Thomas Wyatt (slide 12) is out of
copyright because it is nearly four hundred years old.