William Wordsworth


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One of the most famous poets in literary history is that of William Wordsworth. He lived between the years of 1770-1850. He was a very strong poet and many of his works have some degree of a pessimistic view to them. They could be understood after the hard life he led. He saw the French Revolution at its height and wrote several poems about it. He had an illegitimate daughter with a woman in France. When he returned back to England he married Mary Hutchinson, who gave him two sons and another daughter.
     Till this day we can read the famous poems and ballads of Wordsworth. One poem that caught my attention was that of Scorn not the sonnet. The poem is rather interesting and brings up other poets before his time. It also talks about the form and the meaning of a sonnet. He talks of the sonnet as a delicate work of art. Wordsworth describes each part of the sonnet by talking of another poet. He describes how one of the other poets helped shape the form of sonnet writing.
     In the first two lines of the poem he is writing of a critic. Wordsworth writes “Scorn not the sonnet; Critic, you have frowned, mindless of its just honors;” These two lines state the critic or the audience is not able to understand what is being written in the sonnet. Wordsworth from the beginning says that the sonnets hold honor in their form of literary writing. This style of writing was very popular among the sixteen hundreds and most well known writers are known because of their sonnets. The sonnets gave the writers honor as the sonnet took honor of its own.
     Next he goes on to say, “with this key Shakespeare unlocked his heart;” Without going into great detail Shakespeare is none for his incredible sonnets as well as hi plays. Wordsworth here begins to show how each poet contributed to this writing still. He begins off with Shakespeare. Wordsworth explains that through these sonnets Shakespeare’s heart was opened so therefore he was able to write such meaning full sonnets with love and passion. By the honor that was bestowed by the sonnets Shakespeare was able to be more expressive and gain his own honor.
     Petrarch, who was one of the early sonnet writers is also one of the great Italian poets. His sonnets dealt with his unrequited love for a woman by the name of Laura.

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Wordsworth describes Petrarch’s form of sonnet writing as a musician playing a lute. While he is playing the lute his pain supposedly goes away. Wordsworth describes why Petrarch wrote his sonnets and why many other writers write sonnets. Many ties it is for or to a love.
     Again he continues on using the metaphor of music when speaking of how Tasso wrote his style of sonnets. Tasso was another Italian poet who was the author of La Gerusalemme Liberata. Wordsworth writes that “ A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;” This is a reference to Tasso book. He talks about pipe as being of liberty as a pipe or a horn to start a battle for freedom. To a degree this may have some reference to that of the French Revolution.
     Wordsworth also mentions a Portuguese poet by the name of Camoens. He was banished out of Portugal and settled later in China. In the line referring to Camoens it talks about how he used sonnets to soothe the grief that had fallen upon him after being banished from Portugal. Wordsworth is showing his audience that the writers wrote the sonnets to express what they were feeling and that there is not much to understand. What we as the reader must do is put ourselves in the writers position to see what they meant.
     He did not stop after using those three writers but continues in line eight by referring to Dante. He was the writer of Divine Comedy. His sonnets were written on a lighter aspect of poetry. In the two lines that describe Dante’s poetry he uses nature to do so. He talks about the cypress and a glow-worm lamp. From that line he leads over to another poet who wrote of nature, love and Fairies.
     The poet that he next wrote was that of Spencer. He describes Spencer’s sonnets as if they were talking about Fairy-tale ideas. He is now using the metaphor of land and woods to describe his poets and their use of sonnets. Before Wordsworth used the metaphor of music. He talks about struggle through dark ways, which may have some reference to the difficulty of writing a sonnet that comes from the heart. In order for this to be done a poet must look deep inside and express what they feel.
     Lastly he uses Milton to describe sonnet writers. He talks of Milton’s sonnets as a horn that is being blown through a path in the woods. Wordsworth combines his two other metaphors in his last paragraph to give it a literary effect. He states that Milton attempted to write sonnets but when he did there were few of them. He describes it as a trumpet that was to be blown. When the notes were blown “Soul-animating-strains” came out but they were very few. He basically states that Milton was an excellent poet but he should have written more.
     Wordsworth in his writing style is that to one similar to a sonnet. The pattern he follows is rather simple but appears weird. He used abbaaccadedeff as his pattern of writing. Traditional sonnets have a set pattern and sixteen lines but it is safe to say that what Wordsworth wrote can be viewed as an untraditional form of sonnet writing.
     Wordsworth took a style of poetry and wrote about it the simplest thing a person can write about. But he used it in an excellent style. He described how it was used by different poets and in different forms. To a degree he explained what it is to truly write from the heart and life. Granted we all live through our own hardships in life we express it differently. In this poem that is what Wordsworth is trying to explain. Maybe this is why we the audience has trouble understanding the sonnet?



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