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.
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
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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