The American Sonnet
Prologue to Romeo and Juliet
Two households, both alike in dignity, a
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, b
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, a
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. b
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes c
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; d
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows c
Do with their death bury their parents' strife. d
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love, e
And the continuance of their parents' rage, f
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage; f
The which if you with patient ears attend, g
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend. g
William Shakespeare (1598)
· The Turn
· Word Play / Pun
All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love's storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here while we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blowout the lights, and come at last to bed.
Billy Collins (2002)
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (b. 1892- d.1950)
One of the Seven Has Somewhat to Say
Remember how it was before she came--?
The picks and shovels dropped beside the door,
The sink piled high, the meals any old time,
Our jackets where we’d flung them on the floor?
The mud tracked in, the clutter on the shelves,
None of us shaved, or more than halfway clean…
Just seven old bachelors, living by ourselves?
Those were the days, if you know what I mean
She scrubs, she sweeps, she even dusts the ceilings;
She’s made us build a tool shed for our stuff.
Dinner’s at eight, the table setting’s formal.
And if I weren’t afraid I’d hurt her feelings
I’d move, until we get her married off,
And things can gradually skip back to normal.
Sara Henderson Hay (1963)
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked...