|A Sonnet on a Tear
Not all the darkened clouds with falling rain,
Not all the bending
brooks, the sunny streams,
Not all of these, and seas and oceans full,
To douse the hopeless place that hell is in,
A sonnet is said to mean "a little song" in Italian (although they do use
the word "canzone" for song). It consists of fourteen lines with a definite
meter and rhyme.
The typical English sonnet is organized with three four-line stanzas or quatrains, followed by a two-line stanza (a couplet). The rhyme scheme for the English version is abab cdcd efef gg.
In this sonnet the author strove to write a poem with five feet to the line in the rising duple rhythm of the iambic foot — in iambic pentameter. It follows the structure of the typical English sonnet. In each quatrain the first and third lines rhyme, and the second and fourth lines rhyme. The lines of the couplet rhyme with each other.
The first twelve lines present the problem that not all the waters on earth can extinguish hell, but the couplet says, a tear can do it. The couplet shows the importance of repentance and mercy. While hell will still exist as an entity, sorrow can put out the fire for an individual, saving the person from it.
During the Italian Renaissance of the 13th and 14th centuries, poets wrote sonnet sequences on the theme of love. English poets brought back the sonnet from their travels. William Shakespeare set the standard of typical English form. Among the great ones that John Milton wrote, was his sonnet "On His Blindness." Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sequence of love poems to her husband, called "Sonnets from the Portuguese." The American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was fond of this form and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for several works, which included a group of eight sonnets.
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