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The Sonnet(1807)

William Wordsworth

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room,
MeterNuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room,
And hermits are contented with their cells,
MeterAnd hermits are contented with their cells,
And students with their pensive citadels;
MeterAnd students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
MeterMaids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
MeterSit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest peak of Furness fells,
MeterHigh as the highest peak of Furness fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
MeterWill murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:

Note on line 7: Before you insist on “hour” as a disyllable, listen again for the kind of buzz Wordsworth wants to impart here. All the sleepy l’s and m’s are there to make the line purr, and a monosyllabic “hour” slips much more smoothly into the mood. (A note to a later line will give another reason for keeping the rhythm of this line perfectly iambic.)

In truth the prison, unto which we doom
MeterIn truth the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
MeterOurselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
MeterIn sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
MeterWithin the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;

Note on line 11: Here ends a run, unusual in a poet as sophisticated as Wordsworth, of five perfect pentameter lines. But the steady rhythm forms just half of a prosodic story counterpointing this sonnet’s message about striking a balance between constraint and freedom; the other half is told by strategic enjambment, at the volta of line 8 and again at the end of line 10, which underwrites the poet’s syntactic liberty to overrun line-ends as he sees fit.

Pleased if some souls (for such there needs must be)
MeterPleased if some souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
MeterWho have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.
MeterShould find brief solace there, as I have found.

Rhyme
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