Posts Tagged ‘sonnets’

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.


What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

III. “On hearing a symphony by Beethoven”

Sweet sounds, oh, beautiful music, do not cease!
Reject me not into the world again.
With you alone is excellence and peace,
Mankind made plausible, his purpose plain.
Enchanted in your air benign and shrewd,
With limbs a-sprawl and empty faces pale,
The spiteful and the stingy and the rude
Sleep like the scullions in the fairy-tale.
This moment is the best the world can give:
The tranquil blossom on the tortured stem.
Reject me not, sweet sounds; oh, let me live,
Till Doom espy my towers and scatter them,
A city spell-bound under the aging sun.
Music my rampart, and my only one.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Francesco Petrarca – Petrarch – from Canzoniere
trans. Mark Musa

Sonnet 3

It was the day the sun’s ray had turned pale

with pity for the suffering of his Maker

when I was caught (and I put up no fight),

my lady, for your lovely eyes had bound me.

It seemed no time to be on guard against

Love’s blows; therefore, I went my way

secure and fearless – so, all my misfortunes began

in the midst of universal woe.

Love found me all disarmed and saw the way

was clear to reach my heart down through the eyes,

which have become the halls and doors of tears.

It seems to me it did him little honor

to wound me with his arrow in my state

and to you, armed, not show his bow at all.

Sonnet 157

That day for forevermore so cruel and honored

sent to my heart its image so alive

there is no wit or style that can describe it,

but often I recall it with my mind.

Her attitude, adorned with gracious pity,

the bittersweet lamenting that I heard,

caused me to wonder were she mortal woman

or goddess, for she cleared the sky around her.

Her head fine gold, her face was like warm snow,

her eyebrows ebony, her eyes two stars

from where Love never bent his bow in vain—

pearls and red roses where the gathered grief was

transformed into ardent, lovely words—

her sighs of blame, her tears as though of crystal.

Sonnet 90

She’d let her gold hair flow free in the breeze

and whirled it into thousands of sweet knots,

and lovely light would burn beyond all measure

in those fair eyes whose light is dimmer now.

Her face would turn the color pity wears,

a pity true or false I did not know,

and I with all love’s tinder in my breast—

it’s no surprise I quickly caught on fire.

The way she walked was not the way of mortals

but of angelic forms, and when she spoke

more than an earthly voice it was that sang:

a godly spirit and a living sun

was what I saw, and if she is not now,

my wound still bleeds, although the bow’s unbent.

Sonnet 5

When I summon my sighs to call for you,

with the name love inscribed upon my heart,

And LAUdable sound at the beginning

of the sweet accents of that word comes forth.

Your REgal state which I encounter next

doubles my strength for the high enterprise,

that “TAcitly the end cries, “for her honor

These better shoulders for support than yours.”

And so, to LAUd and to REvere the word

itself instructs whenever someone calls you,

A lady worthy of all praise and honor –

Unless, perhaps, Apollo be offended

A morTAl tongue be so presumptuous

to speak of his eternally green boughs.

*Laure ta, laure ta! : praise you, praise you!

Sir Philip Sidney

Astrophil & Stella 9

Queen Virtue’s court, which some call Stella’s face,

prepared by nature’s chiefest furniture,

hath his front built of alabaster pure:

gold is the covering of that stately place.

The door, by which sometimes comes forth her grace,

red porphyr is, which lock of pearl make sure;

whose porches rich, which name of cheeks endure,

marble, mixed red and white, do interlace.

The windows now, through which this heavenly guest

looks over the world and can nothing such

which dare claim from those lights the name of best,

of touch they are that without touch doth touch,

which Cupid’s self from Beauty’s mine did draw:

of touch they are and poor I am their straw.

Lady Mary Wroth (neice of Sir Philip Sidney)

Pamphila to Amphilanthus 1

When night’s blacke Mantle could most darknesse proue,

And sleepe (deaths Image) did my senses hyre,

From Knowledge of my selfe, then thoughts did moue

Swifter then those, most swiftnesse neede require.

In sleepe, a Chariot drawne by wing’d Desire,

I saw; where sate bright Venus Queene of Loue,

And at her feete her Sonne, still adding Fire

To burning hearts, which she did hold aboue,

But one heart flaming more then all the rest,

The Goddesse held, and put it to my breast,

Deare Sonne now shoot, said she: thus must we winne;

He her obey’d, and martyr’d my poore heart.

I waking hop’d as dreames it would depart,

Yet since, O me, a Lover I haue beene.

Edmund Spenser



My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun;

coral is far more red than her lips red:

if snow be white, whyy then her breasts are dun;

if hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask’d, 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 has 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.

Sting’s “Sister Moon


Sonnet 14

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.

I, like a usurped town, to another due,

Labor to admit you, but O, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, and me should defend,

But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,

That am betrothed unto your enemy.

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Sonnet 17

Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt

To nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,

And her soul early into heaven ravished,

Wholly on heavenly things my mind is set.

Here the admiring her my mind did whet

To seek thee, God; so streams to show the head;

But though I have found thee, and thou my thirst hast fed,

A wholly thirsty dropsy melts me yet.

But why should I beg more love, whenas thou

Dost woo my soul, for hers offering all thine;

And dost not only fear lest I allow

My love to saints and angels, things divine,

But in thy tender jealousy dost doubt

Lest the world, flesh, yea the devil put thee out.

Sonnet 18

Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear.

What! Is it she which on the other shore

Goes richly painted? Or which, robbed and tore,

Laments and mourns in Germany and here?

Sleep she a thousand, then peeps up one year?

Is she self-truth, and errs? Now new, now outwore?

Does she, and did she, and shall she evermore

On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?

Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights

First travel we seek, and then make love?

Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sights,

And let mine amorous soul court thy mild dove,

Who is most true and pleasing to thee then

When she is embraced and open to most men.

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