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0, blessed day, when through the world below
JESUS shall reign the prince of love and peace, For then shall men their angry contests cease,
And never more appear in hostile show;The sword transform'd into th' unbloody plow
And spear to pruning hook for thriving trees. The kid lies down with leopard at his ease,
And grizzly bear feeds harmless with the cow. The wolf and lamb together peaceful dwell,
The calf with the young lion too are led
By hand of little child. Ah, who can tell
No stain is seen on human hand of blood,
NATURE AND HISTORY OF THE SONNET.
In the judgment of some of the greatest poets and literary men the Sonnet is a form of poetry of very high value ; in its structure a precious gem. It is of Italian origin and was invented by Petrarch in the 14th century. In his retreat at Vaucluse near Avignon he wrote the greater part of his sonnets, all devoted to the idolatry of woman-to the praise of Laura : 227 of them were written while she was living; and he continued to extol her in 90 sonnets after her death.
The laws of the sonnet are these. It has one leading subject and should end with some striking thought, or must bring to a beautiful conclusion or point the images and musings of the first lines and greater part of the poem. It has always 14 lines, falling into two unequal lobes, one of two quatrains, the other of two triplets ; or in other words it is composed of four stanzas, the two first of four lines each and the two last of three lines each. Then as to the rhymes,—the first eight lines have only two rhymes, and they always in the same place,—the first, fourth, fifth and eighth lines rhyming ; so also the other four. The last six lines admit of a little change, and may have either two or three rhymes ; usually the four first lines have alternate rhymes, and the two last are a couplet; but even in this case the triplet form is to be preserved.
The distinction of the stanzas is made, not by a separation from each other by wider spaces, but while printed compactly by the lines 1, 5, 9, and 12, projecting to the left; as in Milton's sonnets and in the Venice edition of Petrarch in 1764. Various poets
however have unwisely disregarded this rule : and have variously placed their rhymes and their lines at their pleasure. Campbell bas translated a few of Petrarch's sonnets, reducing the 14 lines to 12, composed of three similar quatrains, the first and last lines of which rhyme together. But this is destroying the Sonnet.
Our admiration of Petrarch should perhaps be a little moderated; for he is full of affected turns and paradoxes and smart antitheses. Speaking of love he says, “O viva morte, O dilettoso male,”O living death, 0 most beloved evil! Speaking also of its effect he says in four lines of rhyme, which may be thus translatedwithout rhyme
“I find no peace, and am not the subject of war;
Addressing a river, in which Laura washed her face, he says, “Thou hast no rock beneath thy waves, which does not burn with the same fires, that are kindled in me.” He also said, “O earth, thou art not worthy to be trodden by her feet. She deserves to adorn heaven!"
His curious stanza repeating the word dolce, sweet, 9 or 10 times may be thus translated :
and sweet joy, and then sweet pain,
The sonnet in the use of Petrarch did not attain its highest dignity, for it was wholly appropriated to the praise of Laura, his love for whom whether real or fictitious has not yet been settled by the literary world. He died in 1374, aged 70.—The eminent English poet ser followed him after an interval of more than 200 years dying in 1598: he published 87 sonnets. Then Shakespeare, who died in 1616, published 154 sonnets ; all of which by these two poets are devoted to love, but with a change of the Italian rhyme and form.
The following shows the sonnet's structure by Spenser.
Men call you fair, and you do credit it,
It will be observed, that the last couplet is always a rhyme, which is not the fixed rule of Petrarch ; and then he has changed the places of the rhymes and confused them by abolishing the stanzas. The following is a sonnet of Shakespeare.
“O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth;
Here also is an injurious change in the sonnet of Petrarch: the last couplet is always a rhyme, and it is separated in print from the 12 lines, which are very simple, composing three stanzas of distinct, alternate rhymes, much easier to compose than Spenser's or the Italian.
Milton wrote 5 sonnets in Italian, which were translated by Cowper. In them he followed Petrarch in his subject. It was in his 18 English sonnets, that he has given to this form of poetry its