Friday, October 31, 2008

The Sole Unbusy Thing

Sonnets are a great place to ponder the relationship of the rhyme scheme to the voice, or feeling, of the verse. For in sonnets the rhyme scheme is almost always changed between the two sections of the poem. In Italian sonnets the first section generally went abbaabba, and the second was either cdecde or cdcdcd. In English we use more variety, yet the scheme of the two sections almost always changes, and the voice changes in tandem with it. Often English sonnets will be three four line sections, abab cdcd efef and the a concluding rhymed couplet that changes tone: gg.

Differing rhyme schemes produce, or at least accentuate, different attitudes and voices. In Work Without Hope, Samuel Taylor Coleridge uses an odd but effective ababbb in the first section, and a series of four couplets in the second. This is highly unusual in that the shorter section comes first rather than the longer section. This, an inverted sonnet, is rarely done, and even more rarely effective.

But what interests me here is that the rhyme scheme in the first part draws it together in a unity. Notice also that it is more enjambed, the end of the line is less likely to signal the end of a sentence. It becomes one solid edifice. However the couplets of the second section are more free standing; each couplet stands as a sentence and thought to itself. These changes affect the tone of each section. The second section feels like a series of couplets rather than a united whole, which perfectly suits the disjointed aimless wandering life that Coleridge ponders.

Work Without Hope

All nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair--
The bees are stirring--birds are on the wing--
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live.

Please read the post below (A Challenge, 10/29/08). I am asking anyone willing to compose a sonnet and I will post them all together in about ten days. I am not a poet, and I will be trying to make one. So, please, don't be afraid to send me one whether you are a poet or not.


No comments: