Elizabeth Purser

History of the Sonnet

Sonnet poems were created by an Italian man, Francesco Petrarch. Legend tells us that in church one Sunday, Petrarch glimpsed at a woman named Laura and he knew it was love at first sight. There is no evidence that Petrarch ever talked to her and she supposedly married someone else.

Why are these poems written?

These poems are just simply about love, the exciting feeling of love, the happiness of love, the comforting feeling of love, and one of the most important elements of love, the hurt and pain. Petrarch expresses what love means to him and uses as an outlet for his pain. The purpose of the poems is intended for the writer to express how being in love makes them feel.

Identification of a Sonnet

Sonnets are, I guess you could say, "stricter" than other forms of poems. All sonnets have 14 lines which are sometimes broken down into four sections, have a strict rhyme scheme, and have 10 meters in one line made up of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables.

Sonnet Example

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Ye ladies, walking past me piteous-eyed,

Who is the lady that lies prostrate here?
Can this be even she my heart holds dear?
Nay, if it be so, speak, and nothing hide.
Her very aspect seems itself beside,
And all her features of such altered cheer
That to my thinking they do not appear
Hers who makes others seem beatified.

‘If thou forget to know our lady thus,

Whom grief o'ercomes, we wonder in no wise,
For also the same thing befalleth us,
Yet if thou watch the movement of her eyes,
Of her thou shalt be straightaway conscious.
O weep no more; thou art all wan with sighs.

(Trans. D.G. Rossetti)


"A Short History of the Sonnet". Folger Shakespheare Library. December 4, 2014.

"What Is a Sonnet?". About. December 4, 2014.

"Poetry through the ages". Examples of Sonnets : Poetry through the Ages. December 4, 2014.