Sonnets

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The sonnet was adopted by English writers in the mid-16th century from the love poetry of the Italian Renaissance. Its origin can be traced to 13th-century Italy where the 14-line poem originated as a verse form to express stylised, courtly love. Petrarch, and later Dante, used the sonnet to express the changing circumstances of their times and the emerging Renaissance humanist vision. It was Sir Thomas Wyatt, stimulated by contact with Italian literary men while serving in the diplomactic service, who first began to translate and emulate the work of Petrarch. Edmund Spenser carried forward the development, substituting the Protestant-Platonic ideal of pure and virtuous for the defunct theme of courtly love. The Elizabethan sonnet reached its consummation in the genius of Shakespeare. With the exception of those of Shakespeare, the sonnet, as a verse formcapabale of expressing the mood and lyrical outlook of any age, has, in the opinion of the author, suffered undeserved neglect. In this selection of over 150 sonnets, Kenneth Verity shows how successfully this verse form can be used to address the issues of the 21st century, where the stress of modern living has cut the individual off from the harmony of his being with the order of the universe. As Shakespeare put it in The Merchant of Venice : Such harmony is in immortal souls .