On Poetry and Culture Shock

Sonnet on the sonnet

Sonnet on the sonnet It doesn’t matter how much I insult confessional poetry and all the evils brought by Romanticism: some Romantics got it right most of the time (there’s only some people like Bécquer, that give Romanticism a bad name). And probably my favourite Romantic is John Keats, who has an absolutely gorgeous poem on the relationship of content and form. Of course, it could only be on the most classical, demanding, artificial of Western poetry forms. It could only be a sonnet.

If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,
And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness,
Let us find, if we must be constrain'd,
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 gain'd
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.

Misers of sound and syllable. I really like that line, just as much as the metaphor of poetry as language bound by hains like poor Andromeda. There are less and less poets in search of a rhyme, so very few that count their syllables. What would have Keats thought of free verse, of the lovely nakedness of verses unbound by stanzas? Would he have compared it to Perseus?

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