• Unit 6: Sonnet and rhyme

    Unit 6:  Sonnet and rhyme

    Sonnet

    Activity 1

    In groups of four, read the poem below. One of you should read as the rest of the group members listen.

    Teenage Love

    by Mohammed Adel
     
    Why should we be in love though it’ll end?

    And we both know so, so why should we start?

    Knowing that our feelings and time in vain spent?

    And we gain nothing but the aching of the heart


    It is a matter of time till our parting

    I think we should better not commence

    A journey that has a joyful starting

    But shortly in sadness and tears ends


    Stop using your heart and use your mind

    For the heart sometimes be so reckless

    Think of our alleged love and you shall find

    That our exertions will be worthless


    Teenage love shall give us nothing but pain

    And we may love each other, but in vain.

    Questions

    a. How many lines does it have?

    b. What is it talking about?

    c. As a class, with the guidance of your teacher, discuss the relationship between age and love. For instance, at what age can one say they are capable of understanding and appreciating love?

    A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem. This poem usually has a single theme with a standard or a fixed, rhyme pattern. Sonnets can explore all types of themes. However, love is the most common in sonnets. The poem you just read is a sonnet.

    Rhyme

    Activity 2

    Have a look at the sonnet below. Write down the endings of all the lines. What do you notice about them?

    Why should we be in love though it’ll end?

    And we both know so, so why should we start?

    Knowing that our feelings and time in vain spent?

    And we gain nothing but the aching of the heart


    It is a matter of time till our parting

    I think we should better not commence

    A journey that has a joyful starting

    But shortly in sadness and tears ends


    Stop using your heart and use your mind

    For the heart sometimes be so reckless

    Think of our alleged love and you shall find

    That our exertions will be worthless


    Teenage love shall give us nothing but pain

    And we may love each other, but in vain.

    Activity 3

    Write the sounds of the line endings in the poem you have just read.

    When we read a poem, we sometimes notice that the last word in a line has the same vowel sound as the word in the following line. It could even be more than one other line. When this happens, we say the words rhyme.  Thus we can say a rhyme is the matching of sounds in words at the end of lines of a poem.

    Rhyme can be masculine or feminine. It is masculine when the rhyming words are monosyllabic. Monosyllabic means they have one syllable. If for example the words are ‘ate’ and ‘bate’, ‘old’ and ‘fold’, we say these are masculine rhymes.

        On the other hand the words could be polysyllabic. Polysyllabic means they have more than one syllable. Such rhyme is called feminine rhyme.

    Look at the following poems.

    The letters of the alphabet have been used to show which words rhyme. ‘Comely’ rhymes with ‘lonely’. ‘Said’ rhymes with ‘dead’, and ‘dumb’ with ‘numb’. When we do this we say we are describing the rhyme scheme of the poem. We use the letters of the alphabet to show the sounds that rhyme.

        ‘Comely’ and ‘lonely’ are feminine rhymes, while ‘numb’ and ‘dumb’ are masculine rhymes.

    Activity 4

    Read the following poem in pairs and:

    a. Describe the rhyme scheme.

    b. Identify the type of rhymes used and give examples.

    The Imprisonment of Obatala

    by J. P Clark 

    Those stick-insect fingers! They rock the dance

    Of snakes, dart after His daddy-long arms,

    Tangle their loping strides to mangrove stance

    And He, roped in the tightening pit alarms

    Dangles in his front, full length,

    Invincible limbs cramped by love of their strength.

    Activity 5

    Masculine rhyme

    In groups of five, read the poem below. Study and discuss the highlighted words at the end of each line carefully.

    Lecture upon the Shadow

    by John Donne

    Stand still and I will read to thee

    A lecture, love, in love’s philosophy

    These three hours that we have spent

    Walking here, two shadows went,

    Along with us, which we ourselves produced.

    But now the sun is just above our head

    We do those shadows tread

    And to brave clearness all things are reduced.

    Activity 6

    Feminine rhyme

    In groups of four, read the poem below. Study and discuss the highlighted words.

    Sonnet Number 20

    by William Shakespeare

    A woman’s face with nature’s

    Own hand painted,

    Hast thou, the master

    Mistress of my passion

    A woman’s gentle heart,

    But not acquainted with shifting change,

    As is false women’s fashion

    But since she prick’d thee

    Out for women’s pleasure

    Mine be thy love

    And thy love’s use their treasure

    Feminine rhyme is also commonly known as double rhyme. It is a rhyme that matches two or more syllables in which the final syllable or syllables are unstressed. This kind of rhyme is relatively rare.  

             Rhyme in the above poem occurs in the following sounds: 

                      

    Feminine rhymes often occur internally. This means they don’t always appear as endings of a line in each stanza but in random words within a given line.
    Feminine

    Activity 7

    Use the rhyming words: passion, fashion, pleasure and treasure to write a simple poem.

    Importance of rhyme

    Activity 8

    Read the poem below. Discuss with your desk mate what makes it interesting

    Africa

    Rhyme has several uses in a poem.

    1. When words rhyme, they create beauty and a sense of completeness. In the poem, Africa, ‘numb’ and ‘dumb’ rhyme, the idea of the lady becoming totally unfeeling becomes complete. She keeps the company of people who can’t hear or talk. It looks as if this is something they have chosen for themselves and that is why she says they are shameless. This makes her lose all warmth and life. It is not a wonder that though she is ‘comely’ she is ‘lonely’.

    2. Rhyme also makes the words that rhyme stand out. For instance, ‘comely’ and ‘lonely’ stand out. They emphasise the contrast in the poem. You would certainly expect a beautiful lady to have beautiful company, but we are told she is all alone.

    3. Rhyme can help focus on the meaning of the poem. For example, the words ‘numb’, ‘lonely’ and ‘dumb’ are important in expressing the meaning of the poem. The maiden’s sadness and loneliness comes from the fact that she is in the midst of people who seem incapable of speaking for themselves. Figuratively, Africa is a continent of a people who are voiceless, perhaps out of choice.

    4. Rhyme may also be used as a way of making fun or making light of a situation. For instance:

               It’s clear she ate not, they said

               For many years none she fed

               So here she lay sadly so dead

               In this extract from a poem, the poet makes light of a very sad situation

               where someone has starved to death, almost making it look funny.

    It is important to note that rhyme is one way in which a poet can create

    atmosphere in a poem. Atmosphere refers to emotions and feelings in a poem. The poet also uses setting, meaning the time and place of the poem, to create the atmosphere. The atmosphere can also be created using any imagery. Imagery are words that create mental pictures in the mind of the reader.

    Atmosphere can be tense, calm, chaotic, uncertain, unfriendly and so on.

    Practice Exercise 1

    Read the poem below and answer the questions that follow.

    Educational Dispersion

    Graphite Drug

    The instructor is, at head of class,

    Scans the classroom and sees all the students,

    They inhabit the room like inert gas,

    Atoms of reason float in abundance.


    Who will learn and who will remain inert?

    The instructor may not ask of such things,

    It is enough to keep a group alert,

    And help them all to grow their wings.


    Many moments are spent in discussions,

    Helping fresh minds understand the subject,

    Sometimes there are excursions,

    And sometimes seeing the real object.


    Though some may let their knowledge fade,

    Many will find work and careers will be made.

         Questions

    a. What kind of poem is this? Give reasons for your answer.

    b. Is the rhyme in this poem feminine or masculine? Give reasons for your answer.

    c. What is the poem talking about?

    d. What do you think makes this poem interesting to recite and listen to?

         Practice Exercise 2

    a. In your small groups, write a sonnet on the topic, ‘Our love for the environment’. Include a feminine rhyme.

    b. In your small groups, write a sonnet entitled, ‘Responsible sexual behaviour’.

    Types of sonnets and their rhyme schemes

    There are two types of sonnets.These are:

    1. The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet;

    2. The Shakespearean or English sonnet.

    Sonnets are usually characterised by their country of origin or the poet and the rhyme scheme they use.

    The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet

    Activity 9

    In your small group, read the poem below that was written by James Deford. Use the rhyming words in the octave to write a simple poem. Your poem should be a sestet.

    Poets create sonnets in two ways.

        a) The first way of creating a sonnet is when they start with an eight-line section followed by a six-line section. The first part is called an octave. The second part is called a sestet. This type of a sonnet is referred to as a Petrarchan.  In this poem, a poet can develop an argument easily. The first part of the poem will develop the argument and the sestet will give the conclusion. Usually the sestet could start with words such as ‘and’, ‘if’, ‘thus’, ‘so’, ‘but’, ‘for’ or ‘then’.

    The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet was introduced by Italian poet Francesco Petrarch. Hence similar sonnets by Petrarch and other poets were then called Petrarchan or Italian sonnets. Italian sonnets consist of an octave (the first eight lines) rhyming abbaabba and a sestet (the last six lines) rhyming in either cdecde or cdcdcd.

       The beginning of the sestet marks the volta, or turn, in the sonnet. Often, the octave presents an argument or a problem. In the poem above, the poet is trying to convince someone beloved to him or her not to abandon their relationship but instead give it a chance.  The poet warns the beloved that he or she should appreciate the love present instead of anticipating something better that may never happen.

        It is the sestet that answers the question on whether the beloved stayed or left. From line nine, it is clear the beloved left and suffered the consequences: ‘Your roses wilted’. Yet, the persona is steadfast in his or her love for the beloved. In line 11, the persona says: ‘dwell in my heart from which you’ve turned.’

        The sestet, therefore, presents an answer or a counter-argument to a problem presented in the octave.

    English sonnet or Shakespearean

         b) The second way of creating a sonnet is to create a poem with three stanzas, each made up of four lines, and a final stanza made up of two lines. The first type of stanza is called a quatrain. The second type is called a couplet.  A quatrain is a four-line stanza, while a couplet is a two-line stanza.

    A sonnet with three quatrains and a couplet is called a Shakespearean sonnet. In this type of a sonnet, the poet can develop an argument in the quatrains and then use the couplet to conclude it. The poet may also present an argument in the first quatrain, give variations in this argument in the following two quatrains and then use the couplet to give the conclusion.

    A poet can also build a picture in the first twelve lines and then use the couplet to agree or disagree, or to change the picture in a certain way.

    Activity 10

    In your small groups, read the poem below. One of you should read a stanza out loud as the rest listen. Take turns until you finish reading it.

    SONNET 18

    by William Shakespeare

    Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

    Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.

    And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:


    Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,

    And often in his gold complexion dimm’d;

    And every fair from fair sometime declines,

    By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;


    But thy eternal summer shall not fade

    nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

    When in eternal lines to time

    Thou grow’st;

    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

    Activity 11

    a. In pairs research the nationality of William Shakespeare.

    b. In groups of four, discuss what the above sonnet is talking about.

    The Shakespearean or English sonnet was popularised by famous poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. This poem consists of three quatrains (fourline stanzas) and a couplet (two-line stanza) with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg.

        In a Shakespearean sonnet, the volta (the turn) usually begins at line nine. This is when the mood of the poem changes and the poet expresses a revelation or epiphany.

        In the poem above, the poet talks of time and seasons. The persona agrees that everything in this life blooms and withers at specific times, ‘summer comes and goes’, ‘the sun shines bright and at other times it is dimmed’. However, there is a change in line nine ‘...but thy eternal summer shall not fade’.

         The poem is a typical shakespearean poem where the persona declares his eternal love to his beloved. The poem then takes a shift from line nine where the poet contradicts his earlier belief that nothing is permanent. This is what is referred to as the volta or the turn.

    Poetic devices in poetry

    Different poetic devices are used to make a poem more interesting and therefore musical and memorable. Poets create rhythm in their poems. This enhances meaning and intensifies mood. Below is a list of the most commonly used poetic devices in a sonnet:

    1. Simile − this is an indirect comparison used to describe things, situations or persons. A simile will make use of the words ‘as’ or ‘like’ Example: ‘... they inhabit the room like inert gas’

    2. Metaphor − is a direct comparison. Unlike a simile, it does not use the words ‘as’ or ‘like’.

    3. Alliteration − is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. Example: ‘.... a lecture, love, in love’s philosophy’

    4. Assonance − refers to the repetition of vowel sounds usually in the middle of a word. Example:  ‘batter that mattered’

    5. Consonance − is similar to alliteration but the consonants are at the end of the words, while alliteration is at the beginning of words.

    6. Onomatopoeia this describes the use of word that sounds like their meanings or imitation of sounds. Example: “the bees were buzzing”

    7. Repetition − this is the repeating of words, phrases or lines. Repetition is used to enhance rhythm and create emphasis.

       Example: ... so long as men can breath

                      ... so long lives this

    Activity 12

    Research and write on the following poetic devices. Write their definitions down and give relevant examples from poems you have read.

    a. Idiophone              c. Hyperbole              e. Personification

    b. Symbolism            d. Meter                      f. Allusion

    Activity 13

    a. In your small groups, choose any one poem from this Unit and discuss, write down and explain the poetic devices used. 

    b. In groups, write a sonnet on any of the themes below:

         i) Environment

        ii) Sex and relationships

        iii) Work and careers

    Practice Exercise 3

    In your groups, read the following sonnet and then answer the questions that follow.

    Sonnet 130

    by William Shakespeare

    My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

    Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

    If snow be white, why her breasts are dun;

    If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

    I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

    But no such roses see I in her cheeks,

    And in some perfumes is there more delight

    That from my mistress reeks.

    I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

    That music hath a far more pleasing sound.

    I grant I never saw a goddess go;

    My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.

    And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

    As any as she belied with false compare.

    (Adapted from Wikipedia)

    Questions

    a. Write down the rhyme scheme of the poem.

    b. With reasons, say whether this is a Shakespearean sonnet or a Petrarchan.

    c. Give the words that have been used to describe the persona’s mistress.

    d. Do you agree with the persona’s description of his mistress? Give reasons for your answer.

    e. What is strange in the persona’s feeling towards his mistress?

    f. What is the message in the poem?

    Practice Exercise 4

    Working in your groups, read the following poem and then answer the questions that follow.

    Vantage Point

    by Robert Frost

    If tired of trees I seek again mankind,

    Well I know where to hie me – in the dawn,

    To a slope where the cattle keep the lawn.

    There amid lolling juniper reclined,

    Myself unseen, I see in white defined

    Far off the homes of men, and farther still,

    The graves of men on an opposing hill,

    Living or dead, whichever are to mind.

    And if by noon I have too much of these,

    I have but to turn on my arm, and lo,

    The un-burned hillside sets my face aglow,

    My breathing shakes the bluet like a breeze,

    I smell the earth, I smell the bruised plant,

    I look into the crater of the ant.

        Questions

    a. Describe the rhyme scheme of the poem.

    b. What type of sonnet is this? Give reasons for your answer.

    Practice Exercise 5

    Working in pairs, read the following poem and then answer the questions that follow.

    Cradle Song

    by William Blake

    Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,

    Dreaming in the joys of the night;

    Sleep, sleep; in thy sleep

    Little sorrows sit and weep.


    Sweet babe, in thy face

    Soft desires I can trace,

    Secret joys and secret smiles,

    Little infant wiles.


    As thy softest limbs I feel

    Smiles as of the morning steal

    O’er thy cheek, and o’er thy breast

    Where thy little heart doth rest.


    O the cunning wiles that creep

    In thy little heart asleep!

    When thy little heart doth wake,

    Then the dreadful night shall break.

    Note:   

                 

    Questions

    a. Identify any words you do not understand and look up their meaning in the dictionary.

    b. Why do you think this poem is called the ‘Cradle Song’?

    c. Identify the characteristics of a sonnet in the poem you have read.

    d. Who do you think is the persona in the poem?

    e. What do you think would be the most suitable time to recite the poem?

    f. What is the theme in the poem?

    Activity 14

    With the help of your teacher, pick any one of the above poems and practise it for a number of days. Later you will recite it to your class. Carry out this activity in groups.

    Extra Exercises

    a. Working in groups, read the following poem and then answer the questions that follow.

    Migration: Zebra and Wildebeest

    by Valerie Cuthbert

    Pounding hooves, dust flying;

    heads held high, manes toss.

    Stripes blending bodies surging;

    eyes starting, teeth baring.

    Dams with foals, startled, running

    sharp hooves dusty grass beating;

    horns tossing. Glimpses so fleeting of

    brown and striped bodies blending, meeting;

    blundering together, pushing and shoving.

    Fear is the spur-off they go thundering

    terror behind, setting ground trembling

    pass out of sight, dusty grass flattening.

    Then – all is still. Red dust is settling.

    (Adapted from Voices Across the Valley)

    Questions

    1. What is the subject matter in the poem?

    2. Describe the rhyme scheme of the poem.

    3. Identify feminine rhymes in the poem.

    4. What is the effect of using rhyme in the poem you have read?

    5. Why do you think the poet has used the rhyme scheme you have identified?

    6. Comment on the use of punctuation markers in the poem.

    7. What is the atmosphere in the poem?

    b. Working in groups, read the following poem and then answer the questions that follow.

    Double Tragedy

    by Patricia K. Murefu

    To us she came, just a brief encounter

    We grew in her fame, such a great enchanter

    Esther was her name, to us joy she could scatter

    Never in her was shame, but the death ship she would charter

    Four semesters of wonder, we didn’t know she would leave

    In her love our hearts were fonder, Esther you were to live

    In the maze of mediocrity we meander, Oh what pain we have

    In the pool of mourning we ponder, how you accepted to leave

    You killed each other, you and that young life

    Never minding the father, in whose heart you put a knife

    Now we turn against one another, tears not calming our grief

    Your fate was set to go, to be one with nature

    Remembering you we’ll never forego, your love we’ll always nurture.

    Questions

    1. Find the meaning of the following words.

        i) encounter

        ii) mediocrity

        iii) nurture

    2. Identify

         i) feminine rhyme

         ii) masculine rhyme

    3. What has the poet achieved by using rhyme?

    4. What do you think the ‘ship’ used in the poem means?

    5. Summarise the subject of the poem.

    6. How does the persona feel about Esther? Give your reasons.

    7. What is the atmosphere in the poem?

    c. Read the following poem in pairs and then answer the questions that follow.

    The Ugly Beauty

    by F. Imbuga

    I looked over my shoulder

    And saw her in my dream,

    A lingering thought from yonder

    Across yesterday’s beauty stream.


    Slowly like an early morning snail

    Came she up the garden path, my beauty,

    With a broad and warm smile

    That shamed her age of forty.


    The morning snail walk

    And the fast spreading smile

    Nudged my side and made me talk

    Forgive me my dear snail,


    But for the smile of mucus,

    On thy cotton soft face

    I would love thee still, my grace

    And shame our separation curse.

    Questions

    1. Identify all the rhyming words in the poem.

    2. Which rhyme types do we have in the poem?

    3. What is the effect of using these rhymes?

    4. Why is the title of the poem ‘The Ugly Beauty’?

    5. Identify any other poetic device used in the poem, besides rhyme.

    6. What do you think is the message in the poem?



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