Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Scorn not the Sonnet"

Wordsworth comments on the history and structure of the sonnet throughout the poem, “Scorn not the Sonnet.” In the first quatrain the speaker comments towards the critics of the sonnet that the strict structure of the sonnet is not actually to blame, it allowed Shakespere and Petrarch to express their feelings in a structured format. Similarly, the second quatrain has the same effect. The speaker once again talks about Tasso another famous poet and how the sonnet allowed him to express himself “a thousand times.” The speaker then talks about how it allowed Camoens, another famous poet to release built up grief and how the sonnet allowed some happiness when times were harsh. The third quatrain once again reveals how the sonnet allowed Spenser to “struggle through the dark ways.” Overall the first three quatrains reveal how the sonnet allowed some stability and way of expression during dark times. The last couplet is about Milton and how he went beyond the scope of sonnets and started writing prose, which became very influential and the new form of poetry. Wordsworth’s poem, “Scorn not the Sonnet,” uses rhyme scheme & structure, allusions, and word choice to comment on the strict structure of the sonnet.

Wordsworth uses allusions towards other historical poets throughout the poem to allude to the importance of the sonnet in the past. Wordsworth praises the sonnets ability to allow these poets to express themselves and give these poets a way to find a light and happiness in the world they lived in. However it is interesting, that all the poets he named had a great historical place in the changing structure of the sonnet. Petrarch, Shakespere, and Spenser all were influential in the changing structure of the sonnet. All three of these poets utalize a different form, the Italian, the Spenserian, and the Shakesperian. It seems as though Wordsworth is praising these poets for breaking out of the previous structure and trying something different. This is also true of Milton, where at the end of the poem Wordsworth comes right out to praise Milton for breaking the structure once again. The allusions of great poets in this poem allows the reader to see the importance of structure and also the importance of breaking the form of the traditional sonnet and trying something different.

Among reading, “Scorn not the Sonnet” it appears that the poem could either Shakesperian, Petrarchian, or Spenserian yet upon a closer look the rhyme scheme is actually abba acca dede ff. This variation in the structure of the poem proves to be a very important factor in the meaning of the poem. Wordsworth uses a variation of all three of these sonnets in his poem, “Scorn not the Sonnet.” Wordsworth is once again praising the use of change in poetry. Wordsworth is commenting on the structure of the sonnet and while doing so changes the rigid structure of the sonnet not once but twice in the second and third quatrains. The volta is at the 3rd from last line. Here it is apparent the point that Wordsworth is trying to make throughout the poem. Wordsworth is commenting on how while the sonnet did allow poets to express themselves the sonnet is very rigid, and difficult to work with. He praises Milton for breaking this favored structure for a more open structure that is easier to work with. Now there in the way from letting his ideas flow freely.

Wordsworth also uses word choice to reveal his theme of change as a good thing. Throughout the poem we see pairs of words such as key and unlocked, soothed and grief, and cheered and mild. Wordsworth shows that while the sonnet did help these historical poets express and reveal their deepest darkest feelings, the change is what allowed them to revolt and rebel against the rigid world they lived in. As expressed earlier the poets named earlier in the poem had an important historical place in the changes made in the sonnet throughout the years. By rebelling against the structure and form of the traditional sonnet it allowed the poets to “ease,” “sooth,” and be “gay.” This allowed the poets to maintain a sense of identity and express themselves during hard times.

Wordsworth’s use of allusions, structure, and word choice in “Scorn not the Sonnet,” allows the reader to gain a sense of how important change is in the realm of poetry. It allows the poets to express themselves on a deeper level, and allows them to rebel against society and restrictions. The constant change in structure allows poetry to constantly re-invent itself.

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