Comparison of John Keats’ ‘on the Sonnet’

1 January 2017

Poems used: John Keats’ ‘On the Sonnet’ 1848 If by dull rhymes our English must be chained, And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet Fettered, in spite of pained loveliness; Let us find out, if we must be constrained, Sandals more interwoven and complete To fit the naked foot of poesy; Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress Of every chord, and see what may be gained By ear industrious, and attention meet; Misers of sound and syllable, no less Than Midas of his coinage, let us be Jealous of dead leaves in the bay-wreath crown; So, if we may not let the Muse be free,She will be bound with garlands of her own William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments.

Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom.If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved. | John Keats On the Sonnet and William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 take different approaches to delivering a message to their audience. Keats uses an imitative rhyme scheme (rhyme imitating intention) to discuss the challenges and restrictions of the sonnet whereas Shakespeare sticks religiously to traditional form to discuss his view on true love. Both poems effectively convey meaning through a 14 line, iambic pentameter sonnet; however the devices and tone of each vary. Keats employs many techniques which help convey his contention to us.

Comparison of John Keats’ ‘on the Sonnet’ Essay Example

Put simply, the intent of Keats poem On the Sonnet is to challenge the traditional form of the sonnet; I do not believe, however, that Keats despises the Sonnet form, I think that he believes that although it can be restrictive due to its form and metre, the restrictions are the mere essence of its beauty. On analysis of the poem, we see that Keats has rejected both the Petrarchan and Shakespearian sonnet rhyme schemes by using a rhyme scheme of his own. He begins with two irregularly rhymed tercets, followed by another irregular quatrain, and ending with an alternating quatrain: a b c / a b d / c a b c / d e d e.This rhyme scheme reflects his focus of unchaining poetry from “dull rhymes” (1), thus not only reflecting the meaning of the poem, but also enhancing it. The theme of imprisonment is introduced by referring to our English as “chained” (1), and then going on to call Sonnet “fettered” (3). He also uses a simile involving the punishment of Andromeda (a Greek Mythological Princess), by comparing her imprisonment to the restrictions he feels the sonnet place on poets; “in spite of pained loveliness,” (3) still bound and shackled to a rock.The poem then goes on to compare “poesy” (6) to that of interwoven sandals which are “complete” and “fit the naked foot” (5-6).

This comparison can be interpreted positively; that although the sandal (metaphor for the sonnet) is interwoven, it is complete and fits the wearer perfectly because of its restricting weaves. If we compare Keats sonnet to Shakespeare’s sonnet Sonnet 116, we can see that both poets have conveyed a message of great importance through a 14 line, iambic pentameter sonnet. Although Keats form was slightly off traditional, Shakespeare follows loyally to the Shakespearian Sonnet form.Both poems have no setting. Regardless of this, the imagery in the poems helps to set the mood for the reading. For example in Keats sonnet we have images of chains, being bound, royalty (King Midas and Princess Andromeda) and flowered crowns, these images support the idea of poetry being important and beautiful however still restricting. In Shakespeare’s sonnet we are being given nautical imagery to guide us in the reading.

The idea of “tempests” (6) gives us an image of a violently windy storm creating rough seas but then the North Star, dependable and ever fixed, shines through and guides the wandering, lost ship.Differentiating from Keats multifaceted point of view, Shakespeare takes one singular stance on the topic of his poem; that true love never alters, that it is an “ever fixed mark” (5). As mentioned above he uses the “star to every wandering bark” (7) as a metaphor for how love may guide a lost and troubled soul back to safety. Along with this extended metaphor Shakespeare also employs repetition (love-love, alters-alteration, remover-remove) to reinforce the statements that he is trying to make.This repetition could almost sound like Shakespeare is preaching to us, gaining momentum in his argument then coming to the climax by exclaiming “o-no! ” concluding with his contention that “it is an ever fixed mark”. In conclusion both poems are aesthetically beautiful; in form, rhythm, metre, language and flow. They both present a point of view on a topic, Shakespeare voicing his poem through a one sided, informed, lawyer-like voice whereas Keats, in a reflective, multifaceted persuasive voice.

Each using different rhyme schemes and devices we are captivated by both poems and the sonnet form.

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