A sonnet is one of the many types of poems that contain its own rules and requirements. A standard sonnet is a 14-lined stanza that follows a specific rhyming pattern that includes an iambic pentameter. Each line of a sonnet will contain 10 syllables with the last words following a rhyming scheme. However, the requirements for writing sonnets changed over time as influential poets established their structures. Today, most individuals follow the Shakespearean Sonnet when writing a poem. This structure follows the rhyming scheme ABAB/CDCD/EFEF/GG. Other types like the Petrarchan Sonnet and Terza Rima Sonnet utilize different rhyming schemes and stanza count.

Sample Sonnets

Some of the most popular sonnets are poems that describe and talk about the topic of love. Poets like Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barret Browning popularized this topic in sonnet writing. However, a sonnet should not only be about the topic of love. Writers can utilize topics familiar to them which can make the writing process enjoyable and easier. Sonnet topics can be about the meaning of life, modern racism, a personal experience, or a random object. The sample poem below “A Plea in the Dark” follows the Shakespearean Sonnet rules and talks about the experience of a dying soldier in battle. This sample sonnet mainly aims to showcase the Shakespeare rhyming scheme “ABAB/CDCD/EFEF/GG” and may not follow the correct iambic pentameter usage.

“A Plea in the Dark”

Oh, here I am, in this predicament

Standing weakly, wondering why all's lost

With heavy gasp, I hold my armament

Eyes locked straight ahead, pondering the cost

Bathe in blood and tears, yet in pain, I say;

May from this life, a lasting peace, I see

May I not rest while all's still in decay

Oh, power o’ high, please grant me this plea

As cold cracked cascading walls brace my stern

I hold grim's hand, so cold, so old, so dark

I, bowed, wished for a wish that none dare yearn

Oh, power o’ high, I feel you so stark

Now, I fall to my eternal slumber

Cursing, may the masters not remember

Below is an example of the Petrarchan Sonnet which follows the ABBA/ABBA/CDCDCD rhyming scheme. A Petrarchan Sonnet may also follow an ABBA/ABBA /CDECDE or ABBA/ABBA/CDCDEE rhyming scheme. Similar to most sonnets, this type also contains a 14-lined stanza that has 10 syllables on each stanza and follows an iambic pentameter. The sample poem “The Outsider Looking In” describes the perspective of an outsider regarding human progress and behavior. Similar to the latter example, this poem aims to showcase the Petrarchan Sonnet rhyming scheme and may not contain proper iambic pentameter use. 

“The Outsider Looking In”

There they are again, things of flesh and bones

Growling against screens with voices unheard

They converse with minds of Id and dull groans

Nodding as if they understood and learned 

Their educated towers the twin stones

Wealthies follow none and always are demurred

Their dumbed knows not living but only moans

Kings cower at the sight of what’s incurred

But they manifested the flames of life;

Took down giants and hunted the danger

Plowed the mountains and made it glow and rife

They accepted hounds and saved the stranger

There they are again, full of love and strife

Growling against screens to win the wager

Conclusion

The sample poems in this article should help students and other individuals understand the basic structure of a sonnet. They should remember that a sonnet will always contain 14 lines and follow a specific rhyming scheme. The topics of the poem can be about anything from common love themes to things that are relevant to a writer. Additionally, novice writers can feel free to write a sonnet that does not follow the iambic pentameter. This is a good way to start writing the poem as it will allow them to become familiar with the rhyming schemes and overall structure. However, it is important to understand that a traditional sonnet should follow the iambic pentameter.

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