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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

John Addington Symonds 1840–93

The Sonnet


THE SONNET is a fruit which long hath slept

And ripen’d on life’s sun-warm’d orchard-wall;

A gem which, hardening in the mystical

Mine of man’s heart, to quenchless flame hath leapt;

A medal of pure gold art’s nympholept

Stamps with love’s lips and brows imperial;

A branch from memory’s briar, whereon the fall

Of thought-eternalizing tears hath wept:

A star that shoots athwart star-steadfast heaven;

A fluttering aigrette of toss’d passion’s brine;

A leaf from youth’s immortal missal torn;

A bark across dark seas of anguish driven;

A feather dropp’d from breast-wings aquiline;

A silvery dream shunning red lips of morn.

There is no mood, no heart-throb fugitive,

No spark from man’s imperishable mind,

No moment of man’s will, that may not find

Form in the Sonnet; and thenceforward live

A potent elf, by art’s imperative

Magic to crystal spheres of song confin’d:

As in the moonstone’s orb pent spirits wind

’Mid dungeon depths day-beams they take and give.

Spare thou no pains; carve thought’s pure diamond

With fourteen facets, scattering fire and light:—

Uncut, what jewel burns but darkly bright?

And Prospero vainly waves his runic wand,

If spurning art’s inexorable law

In Ariel’s prison-sphere he leave one flaw.

The Sonnet is a world, where feelings caught

In webs of phantasy, combine and fuse

Their kindred elements ’neath mystic dews

Shed from the ether round man’s dwelling wrought;

Distilling heart’s content, star-fragrance fraught

With influences from the breathing fires

Of heaven in everlasting endless gyres

Enfolding and encircling orbs of thought.

Our Sonnet’s world hath two fix’d hemispheres:

This, where the sun with fierce strength masculine

Pours his keen rays and bids the noonday shine;

That, where the moon and the stars, concordant powers,

Shed milder rays, and daylight disappears

In low melodious music of still hours.