a small mix of sonnets

I've been reading in my own disordered way various kinds of sonnets. These are just a fairly random pick of mainly older, what you might call "classic" (if you were doing a mix tape) sonnets - apart from the Brennan, I guess, if you were going to get picky. He's a classic to Australians.

I'll post some more "modern" ones late in the day. And maybe an oldie of my own.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Work without Hope

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair--
The bees are stirring--birds are on the wing--
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.
Yet, well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live.

Hartley Coleridge - Prayer

There is an awful quiet in the air,
And the sad earth, with moist imploring eye,
Looks wide and wakeful at the pondering sky,
Like Patience slow subsiding to Despair.
But see, the blue smoke as a voiceless prayer,
Sole witness of a secret sacrifice,
Unfolds its tardy wreaths, and multiplies
Its soft chameleon breathings in the rare
Capacious ether,--so it fades away,
And nought is seen beneath the pendent blue,
The undistinguishable waste of day.
So have I dreamed!--oh may the dream be true!--
That praying souls are purged from mortal hue,
And grow as pure as He to whom they pray.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Sonnet XXVIII

My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!
And yet they seem alive and quivering
Against my tremulous hands which loose the string
And let them drop down on my knee tonight.
This said—he wished to have me in his sight
Once, as a friend: this fixed a day in spring
To come and touch my hand. . . a simple thing,
Yes I wept for it—this . . . the paper's light. . .
Said, Dear, I love thee; and I sank and quailed
As if God's future thundered on my past.
This said, I am thine—and so its ink has paled
With lying at my heart that beat too fast.
And this . . . 0 Love, thy words have ill availed
If, what this said, I dared repeat at last!

William Shakespeare - Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Christopher Brennan - Summer Noon

Fire in the heavens, and fire along the hills,
and fire made solid in the flinty stone,
thick-massed or scattered pebble, fire that fills
the breathless hour that lives in fire alone.
This valley, long ago the patient bed
of floods that carved its antient amplitude,
in stillness of the Egyptian crypt outspread,
endures to drown in noon-day's tyrant mood.
Behind the veil of burning silence bound,
vast life's innumerous busy littleness
is hushed in vague-conjectured blur of sound
that dulls the brain with slumbrous weight, unless
some dazzling puncture let the stridence throng
in the cicada's torture-point of song.

George Herbert - Prayer

Prayer, the Church's banquet, Angels' age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days'-world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well dressed,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices, something understood.

Sir Thomas Wyatt - "Farewell love and all thy laws forever..."

Farewell, love, and all thy laws forever,
Thy baited hooks shall tangle me no more.
Senec and Plato call me from thy lore
To perfect wealth, my wit for to endeavor.
In blind error when I did persever,
Thy sharp repulse that pricketh aye so sore
Taught me in trifles that I set no store,
But scape forth, since liberty is lever.
Therefore, farewell, go trouble younger hearts,
And in me claim no more authority;
With idle youth go use thy property,
And thereon spend thy many brittle darts.
For hitherto though I have lost my time,
Me list no longer rotten boughs to climb.


Jeff Neary said…
check out my version of that wyatt sonnet here:


it is...uhh....loose.

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