Great Sonnets

Great Sonnets

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by Paul Negri

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Treasury of over 170 English and American sonnets by more than 70 poets, from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Shakespeare's "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?", Milton's "On His Blindness," Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much with Us," many more by Spenser, Sidney, Blake, Byron, Coleridge, Longfellow, Yeats, Frost, Poe, etc.See more details below


Treasury of over 170 English and American sonnets by more than 70 poets, from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Shakespeare's "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?", Milton's "On His Blindness," Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much with Us," many more by Spenser, Sidney, Blake, Byron, Coleridge, Longfellow, Yeats, Frost, Poe, etc.

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Great Sonnets

By Paul Negri

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1994 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11216-9


SIR THOMAS WYATT (1503-1542)

POET AND courtier active in the service of Henry VIII. Through his adaptations of Petrarch, he introduced the sonnet form to England in the 1530s.

    "The long love that in my thought doth harbor"

    The long love that in my thought doth harbor,
    And in mine heart doth keep his residence,
    Into my face presseth with bold pretense,
    And there campeth, displaying his banner.
    She that me learneth to love and to suffer,
    And wills that my trust and lust's negligence
    Be reined by reason, shame, and reverence,
    With his hardiness taketh displeasure.
    Wherewith love to the heart's forest he fleeth,
    Leaving his enterprise with pain and cry,
    And there him hideth and not appeareth.
    What may I do when my master feareth
    But in the field with him to live and die?
    For good is the life ending faithfully.

    "My galley charged with forgetfulness"

    My galley charged with forgetfulness
    Through sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
    Tween rock and rock, and eke my foe (alas)
    That is my lord, steereth with cruelness.
    And every oar, a thought in readiness,
    As though that death were light in such a case;
    An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
    Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness;
    A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
    Have done the wearied cords great hinderance;
    Wreathed with error and eke with ignorance,
    The stars be hid that led me to this pain.
    Drowned is reason that should be my comfort,
    And I remain, despairing of the port.

    "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.

    "Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind"

    Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
    But as for me, alas, I may no more,
    The vain travail hath wearied me so sore.
    I am of them that farthest cometh behind;
    Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
    Draw from the Deer: but as she fleeth afore,
    Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
    Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
    Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
    As well as I may spend his time in vain:
    And, graven with diamonds, in letters plain
    There is written her fair neck round about:
    Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am;
    And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.


FRIEND OF Wyatt, with whom he shares credit for introducing the sonnet form to England. He was accused of treason bv Henry VIII and executed.

    The Soote Season

    The soote season, that bud and bloom forth brings,
    With green hath clad the hill and eke the vale;
    The nightingale with feathers new she sings;
    The turtle to her mate hath told her tale.
    Summer is come, for every spray now springs,
    The hart hath hung his old head on the pale;
    The buck in brake his winter coat he flings;
    The fishes flete with new repaired scale;
    The adder all her slough away she slings;
    The swift swallow pursueth the flyes smale;
    The busy bee her honey now she wings,
    Winter is worn that was the flowers' bale.
    And thus I see among these pleasant things
    Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs.

    "Love, that doth reign and live within my thought"

    Love, that doth reign and live within my thought
    And build his seat within my captive breast,
    Clad in arms wherein with me he fought,
    Oft in my face he doth his banner rest.
    But she that taught me love and suffer pain,
    My doubtful hope and eke my hot desire
    With shamefast look to shadow and refrain,
    Her smiling grace converteth straight to ire.
    And coward Love, then, to the heart apace
    Taketh his flight, where he doth lurk and 'plain,
    His purpose lost, and dare not show his face.
    For my lord's guilt thus faultless bide I pain,
    Yet from my lord shall not my foot remove:
    Sweet is the death that taketh end by love.


DRAMATIST AND poet, Gascoigne is credited with having written the earliest English critical essay on the writing of poetry.

    "You must not wonder, though you think it strange"

    You must not wonder, though you think it strange,
    To see me hold my lowering head so low;
    And that mine eyes take no delight to range
    About the gleams which on your face do grow.
    The mouse which once hath broken out of trap
    Is seldom teased with the trustless bait,
    But lies aloof for fear of more mishap,
    And feedeth still in doubt of deep deceit.
    The scorched fly which once hath 'scap'd the flame
    Will hardly come to play again with fire.
    Whereby I learn that grievous is the game
    Which follows fancy dazzled by desire.
    So that I wink or else hold down my head,
    Because your blazing eyes my bale have bred.

SIR WALTER RALEGH (1552?-1618)

POET, SOLDIER and courtier, favorite of Queen Elizabeth. Declining political fortunes resulted in long imprisonment in the Tower of London and his eventual execution by James I.

    [Sir Walter Ralegh to his Son]

    Three things there be that prosper up apace
    And flourish, whilst they grow asunder far,
    But on a day, they meet all in one place,
    And when they meet, they one another mar;
    And they be these: the wood, the weed, the wag.
    The wood is that which makes the gallow tree;
    The weed is that which strings the hangman's bag;
    The wag, my pretty knave, betokeneth thee.
    Mark well, dear boy, whilst these assemble not,
    Green springs the tree, hemp grows, the wag is wild,
    But when they meet, it makes the timber rot;
    It frets the halter, and it chokes the child.
    Then bless thee, and beware, and let us pray
    We part not with thee at this meeting day.

EDMUND SPENSER (1552-1599)

AUTHOR OF The Faerie Queene. The sonnets presented here are from his Amoretti, a sequence of 88 sonnets.

    "Happy ye leaves! whenas those lily hands"

    Happy ye leaves! whenas those lily hands,
    Which hold my life in their dead doing might,
    Shall handle you, and hold in love's soft bands,
    Like captives trembling at the victor's sight.
    And happy lines! on which, with starry light,
    Those lamping eyes will deign sometimes to look,
    And read the sorrows of my dying sprite,
    Written with tears in heart's close bleeding book.
    And happy rhymes! bathed in the sacred brook
    Of Helicon, whence she derived is,
    When ye behold that angel's blessed look,
    My soul's long lacked food, my heaven's bliss.
    Leaves, lines, and rhymes seek her to please alone,
    Whom if ye please, I care for other none.

    'Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day"

    Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day
    Didst make thy triumph over death and sin,
    And having harrowed hell, didst bring away
    Captivity thence captive, us to win:
    This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
    And grant that we, for whom thou diddest die,
    Being with thy dear blood clean washed from sin,
    May live forever in felicity:
    And that thy love we weighing worthily,
    May likewise love thee for the same again;
    And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
    May love with one another entertain.
    So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
    Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

    "One day I wrote her name upon the strand"

    One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
    But came the waves and washed it away:
    Again I wrote it with a second hand,
    But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
    Vain man, said she, that dost in vain assay
    A mortal thing so to immortalize!
    For I myself shall like to this decay,
    And eek my name be wiped out likewise.
    Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise
    To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
    My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
    And in the heavens write your glorious name;
    Where, whenas death shall all the world subdue,
    Our love shall live, and later life renew.

    "Fair is my love, when her fair golden hairs"

    Fair is my love, when her fair golden hairs
    With the loose wind ye waving chance to mark:
    Fair, when the rose in her red cheeks appears,
    Or in her eyes the fire of love does spark:
    Fair, when her breast, like a rich laden bark
    With precious merchandise she forth doth lay:
    Fair, when that cloud of pride, which oft doth dark
    Her goodly light, with smiles she drives away —
    But fairest she, when so she doth display
    The gate with pearls and rubies richly dight,
    Through which her words so wise do make their way,
    To bear the message of her gentle sprite.
    The rest be works of Nature's wonderment,
    But this the work of heart's astonishment.


SIDNEY'S GREAT sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella (published in 1591), from which the first three selections are taken, was enormously popular and influential, inaugurating the great vogue for sonnet sequences in the 1590s.

    "Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show"

    Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
    That the dear she might take some pleasure of my pain,
    Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
    Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
    I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe:
    Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain,
    Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
    Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain.
    But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay;
    Invention, Nature's child, fled stepdame Study's blows;
    And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
    Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
    Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:
    "Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."

    "With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!"

    With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
    How silently, and with how wan a face!
    What! may it be that even in heavenly place
    That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
    Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
    Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case:
    I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace
    To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
    Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
    Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
    Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
    Do they above love to be loved, and yet
    Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
    Do they call "virtue" there — ungratefulness?

    "Come, Sleep, O Sleep! the certain knot of peace"

    Come, Sleep, O Sleep! the certain knot of peace,
    The baiting place of wit, the balm of woe,
    The poor man's wealth, the prisoner's release,
    Th' indifferent judge between the high and low;
    With shield of proof shield me from out the prease
    Of those fierce darts despair at me doth throw:
    O make in me those civil wars to cease;
    I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
    Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
    A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
    A rosy garland, and a weary head:
    And if these things, as being thine by right,
    Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
    Livelier than elsewhere, Stella's image see.

    "Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust"

    Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust;
    And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things;
    Grow rich in that which never taketh rust;
    Whatever fades, but fading pleasure brings.
    Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might
    To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be,
    Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light,
    That doth both shine and give us light to see.
    O take fast hold; let that light be thy guide
    In this small course which birth draws out to death,
    And think how evil becometh him to slide
    Who seeketh heaven, and comes of heavenly breath.
    Then farewell, world; thy uttermost I see:
    Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me.


Excerpted from Great Sonnets by Paul Negri. Copyright © 1994 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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