When Milton’s Sonnets Sing - Poem by Aniruddha Pathak
Petrarchan1 in prime is when most preferred,
Liberty held back by time and volume,
By rhythm and syntax, leaving no room
For a Shakespearean2 to live a charmed bird;
When voluptuous3 words dance in vital strength,
Seldom if e’er pausing e’en to take breath,
Witty4 when scarce the ending be at death,
And rarer still within her lissom length;
The verse when faultless flows, birds as if sing,
Words are when woven on a giant loom
To sound sweet, when warps and woops weave along
A spell, ‘O’s echo reverberating5,
The garment gets when intricately groom’d,
Volta when wilts, there sings his vintage song!
1. Petrarchan: John Milton (1608-1674) who penned a
number of sonnets in Italian, preferred the
Petrarchan style with its rhyme scheme of inter-
linking octave (abba/acca) , followed by a few set
alternatives for the sestet. He experimented on
tempo and volume within these rhyme schemes.
2. Shakespearean: Shakespearean, also known as the
English model, hardly suited Milton’s temperament
and style. He also did not fancy the English witty
closure of the sonnet.
3. When voluptuous gets… take breath: Milton wrote in
such voluptuous verse and waves of speech that a
reader would often get nearly breathless. The flow
was generally so rapid that it would seem he does
not halt to acknowledge any Volta.
4. Witty when scarce… The English sonnet ends with a
Heroic couplet which is often witty, that Milton
feels has no room in sonnets.
5. ‘O’s when echo, O reverberating: Milton perhaps
fancied the expression ‘O’ so much that it occurs
in most of his poems. A typical trait indeed!
This sonnet is set in Milton’s trademark Petrarchan
style, the Volta occurring subtly with the sestet,
never so loud and clear, as I reckon, Milton would like it.
- Sonnets | 04.11.08 |
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