Friday, March 09, 2012

Scorn Not the Sonnet

Scorn not the Sonnet
by William Wordsworth

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
With it Camöens soothed an exile's grief;
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faery-land
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
Soul-animating strains—alas, too few!

I actually had to look up who Camöens was supposed to be; it turns out to be an Anglicization of the last name of Luís Vaz de Camões, the great Portuguese poet who wrote The Lusiads, and I had indeed heard of him -- The Lusiads is the great Portuguese national epic. He wrote sonnets, too, of course, and had an extraordinary influence on the Portuguese language.

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