Sonnet Examples


A sonnet is a specific type of poem that is written using iambic pentameter (10 syllables per line that alternate unstressed and then stressed). It always has 14 lines, and it also has a specific rhyme scheme.

A Shakespearian, or English, sonnet has a rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, gg.

A Petrarchan sonnet is divided into 8 lines and then 6 lines. The first 8 have a rhyme scheme of abbaabba. The last 6 lines could have a rhyme scheme of cdecde or cdcdcd.

Examples of Sonnet:

Examples of Shakespearian Sonnets

Sonnet 55, Shakespeare

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn

The living record of your memory.

'Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So, till the judgment that yourself arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

When I have Fears that I May Cease to Be, John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,

Before high-piled books, in charact'ry,

Hold like rich garners the full-ripened grain;

When I behold upon the night's starred face

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,

That I shall never look upon thee more,

Never have relish in the faery power

Of unreflecting love! -then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,

Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Examples of Petrarchan Sonnets

On His Blindness, John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent,

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one Talent which is death to hide,

Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, least he returning chide,

Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,

I fondly ask; But patience to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need

Either man's work or his own gifts, who best

Bar his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed

And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and waite.

Chaos in 14 Lines, Edna St. Vincent Millay

I will put Chaos into fourteen lines

And keep him there; and let him thence escape

If he be lucky; let him twist, and ape

Flood, fire, and demon--his adroit designs

Will strain to nothing in the strict confines

Of this sweet Order, where, in pious rape,

I hold his essence and amorphous shape,

Till he with Order mingles and combines.

Past are the hours, the years, or our duress,

His arrogance, our awful servitude:

I have him. He is nothing more than less

Than something simple not yet understood;

I shall not even force him to confess;

Or answer. I will only make him good.

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