Sept. 29, 2004
Courses and Syllabi
Dr. Laura L. Runge
Office: CPR 301J
Time: Monday and Wednesday
11:00am - 12:15 pm
Room: CPR 348
Reading Assignment: Keats' early sonnets
"To Kosciusko" (94)
POEM TO ANNOTATE:
"Happy is England" (95)
"After dark vapours" (96)
"On the Sea" (101)
"When I have fears" (221)
DUE: Group A: Post 6
STUDENT LED DISCUSSION:Jada, Morgan
"When I have fears..." (221)
- Study of form -- Keats' use of the Italian and English sonnet
- Study of imagery/texture -- move from sentimentalism
and romance to a more particular and transcendant imagery
This week we will focus on Keats' use of the sonnet, a form
which he never greatly admired but which came easily to him.
Through his brief career we can see his development to a
distinctive style by closely analyzing these brief poems.
Reading Notes and Discussion Questions
Keats' Early Sonnets
Make sure to read the endnotes for each of these poems, and pay special
attention to the date of composition. Given the brevity of Keats' life
and his unprecedented rate of development into a world class poet, these
poems cover the period from his earliest to his latest achievement,
a period from 1816 through 1819.
"In turning to the Shakespearean pattern, beginning with "When I have fears,"
[Keats] was making at least a gesture both of independence and of his new start.
For with the exception of the loose heroic couplet -- which he also abandoned
n -- no form was so closely associated with his previous poetry as the
Petrarchan sonnet. And the associational drag of the Petrarchan form was
even less pleasant than that of the couplet. From the first primitive
efforts back at the Edmonton surge
ry, through the sentimental sonnets of the Felton Mathew period at Guy's
Hospital, and then through the year and a half of Hunt's influence, it
represented both subjects and mannerisms of which he was ashamed, including
sonnet contests, feminine 'occasion
s' for poetry, and responses to gifts of roses or laurel crowns. By the
end of January 1818 he had written at least forty-one sonnets, all in the
Petrarchan form. But from now until the end he was to write little more
than half that number -- a total of
twenty-five. Of these a fifth -- dashed down on the spur of the moment
when he reverted to old habit -- are Petrarchan. Of two others, one is
unrhymed ('What the Thrush Said') and the second is deliberately experimental
('If by dull rhymes'). The remaining eighteen are either basically or
entirely Shakespearean" (Bate 298).
After composing the sonnet "If by dull rhymes" (April 1819) Keats wrote the
following in a letter to George and Georgiana Keats:
"I have been endeavouring to discover a better sonnet stanza than we have.
The legitimate [Petrarchan sonnet] does not suit the language over-well from
the pouncing rhymes -- the other kind [Shakespearean sonnet] appear too
elegaic -- and the couplet at
the end of it seldom has a pleasing effect."
Obviously Keats was very conscious of the form he worked, and also conscious
of his place in a community of poets, both past and present. What do his
changes to the form suggest? What is the significance of his move to a
Shakespearean form while the Petrarchan was so clearly preferred
by his contemporaries? What changes does
he attempt in his innovations?
For each poem, pay close attention to the rhyme scheme, the date, the choice
of Petrarchan versus Shakespearean, and the changes in idiom.
"When I have fears that I might cease to be" (Jan. 1818) -- Bate writes:
"Keat's own sonnet, in fact, is the first of a series in the Shakespearean
form in which he breaks deliberately not only with those he has written
before but also with the sonnet as
conventionally used in this period -- a break that was at least a small
by-product of the attempt to make an entirely fresh start (after Endymion).
Though his heart was never much in the form, and, within a year or so, he
was to tire of it and indeed of the sonnet generally, his
new sonnets approximate the style of
Shakespeare's more closely than any other sonnets of the century" (291).
Compare this sonnet with
Shakespeare's sonnets. In what ways are they similar? Rhymes, sounds,
imagery, diction, patterns?
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