William Wordsworth: Nuns fret not
Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.
highlights the sonnet’s confined but
intricate form and explains the appeal that these features might have for the
poet and for the reader. The rather strict and artificial limits of the sonnet
form, if one approaches the sonnet as it should be approached, are not really
limitations but the very ground of its satisfying richness. The closed but
organized space of the sonnet, as the metaphors in this poem suggest, can thus
become a place of refuge from the chaos of the outside world.
from William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet
Rom. If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Jul. Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrim’s hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
Rom. Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Jul. Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
Rom. O! then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Jul. Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Rom. Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
The sonnet is a brief and closed form. However, within its
limits it represents a whole world. This is why Shakespeare inserts a sonnet
just before Romeo and Juliet kiss each other for the first time.
This first kiss comes at the conclusion of their first
interview. They have seen each other before but have not talked to each other
yet. The first kiss, therefore, comes quite abruptly and might, therefore, seem
improbable. However, by the insertion of the sonnet Shakespeare indicates that
in little space and time a whole world of a change can take place in the life
of two lovers.