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skis, " that this is not done merely to gratify the ex by variety and freedom of sound, but also to sid in giving that pervading sense of intense unity in which the excellence of the Sonnet has always seemed to me to exist. Instead of looking at this composition as a piece of architecture making a whole out of three parts, I have been much in the habit of preferring the image of an orbicular body— a sphere or a dev-drop." (Cf. Misc. Sor., ed. 1849, II., xix, 1. 9-14).
The obvious inference from all this seems to be that
* It must be borne in mind that the movement of the Miltonian (ie. Wordsworthian) sonnet is neither that of ebb and flow, nor, like that affected by Mr. Theodore Watts-Danton (see his typical specimen, The Sonnet's Voice), the movement of flow and ebb. From first to last the Miltonian sonnet holds an onward course. The sonnet-wave advances with a steady crescendo in the oetave, till, culminating in the eighth line, it turns over (not back) to sweep rapidly forwards in the sestet to its death--the gentlest that may be, Dávaros åßlxoos pála toios-with the last ripple of the closing line. Such, undoubtedly, was the view of Keats. See his Epistle to Charles Corden Clarke, 11. 60, 61:
“Who read for me the sonnet swelling loudly
Wordsworth for the most part dispenses with the intellectual subdivisions which, in the Italian archetype, underlie the formal or metrical framework of the Sonnet. This inference is, however, scarcely borne out by the facts. For, if we take any considerable body of the sonnets-say the fifty-six contained in these volumes of 1807—we shall find that, while in a minority—which varies with the date of the group, increasing according as that is later—the meaning overflows into the sestet, in by far the greater number the octave closes with a full stop and a complete break in the sense, thus insuring, so far, a correspondence between the articulation of the thought and the structural scheme of the stanza. But along with these two kinds of sonnet we shall find a third fairly numerous class, in which the Poet—as Pattison says of John Milton—" seems to bear unconscious testimony to the law of pause, thus recognizing its inherent propriety." In these sonnets there is a break or suspense, and a turn or volta, in the meaning; but instead of coming at the close of the octave, this break occurs halfway either in the eighth, or (more frequently) in the ninth
line, or else at the close of the ninth.
Thus, of the
stop at the end of the octave, and a clearly marked turn in the sense at the opening of the sestet; seven have no pause at this point, nor any subdivision of the contents in the least corresponding to the members—quatrains and tercets—of the rhyme-system; and in fifteen we find indeed a pause or volta, but find it halfway through line 9 (as in the Prefatory sonnet and Nos. i., iž., vii., xviii. of the Misc. Series) or through line 8 (as in “Degenerate Douglas !” II., p. 28, and “Clarkson!” II., p. 108), or else at the close of line 9 (as in “We had a fellow-Passenger," I., p. 135).”
That Wordsworth, following Milton's example, should thus vindicate his freedom from the obliga
1 In detail, Vol. I. gives: (regular pause) Misc. ii. iv. v. vi. viii. ix. xi. xii. xiv, xv. xvi. xvii. xix. xx.-14; Independence iji, iv. vi. x. xi. xii. xiv. xvii. xviii. xx. xxi. xxiii. xxvi.-13; (no pause) Misc. x. xiii.—2; Indep. i. vii. xii. xxiv. XXV.—5; (instinctive pause) Misc. Prefatory, i. iii. vii. xviii.-5; Indep. ii. v. viii, ix, xv. xvi. xix. xxii.-8. Vol. II. gives : (regular pause) Sonnets on pp. 105, 106, 107, 119, 120, 121, 122—7; (no pause) 0; (instinctive pause) Sonnets on pp. 28 and 108.
tory observance of the pause or volta at the close of the octave, will surprise or offend no one who reflects what a vast enlargement he effected in the scope and province of the Sonnet. Like his great English Master, Wordsworth was a veritable emancipator of this form of poetry. Just as Milton one hundred and fifty years before had rescued it from bondage to a single factitious passion, so now did Wordsworth in his turn reclaim it from the wailful querelæ and “deploring dumps” of the Nehemiah Higginbottoms of his day, full-freighting its “composéd rhymes” with virile thought and genuine feeling. “ The sonnets," says Sir Henry Taylor, “ bear witness emphatically to a principle which Wordsworth has asserted of poetical, as strongly as Bacon of physical philosophy—the principle that the Muse is to be the servant and interpreter of Nature. Some fact, transaction, or natural object, gives birth to almost every one of them. He does not search his mind for subjects ; he goes forth into the world and they present themselves. His mind lies open to Nature with an ever-wakeful susceptibility, and an impulse from
without will send it far into the regions of thought. But it seldom goes to work upon itself. It is not celibate, but wedded to this goodly universe in love and holy passion.'"
As to the formal rules of the Sonnet—the num. ber and sequence of its rhymes, and so forthWordsworth departs in more respects than one from the usage of Milton. Milton's octave, like that of Michael Angelo, is invariable—ABBA : ABBA. From this type Wordsworth diverges in two ways; in the first place, he follows the lead of Dante and Petrarch in admitting occasional variations in the rhyme-sequence; and, in the second, he claims the right of introducing at will a third rhyme-sound, cc, in the second quatrain—a claim amply justified by the infertility of the language in rhyming terminations. Of the forty-three sonnets of Dante, seven have an octave of alternating rhymes, ABAB, etc., and this type of octave is also found in ten out of Petrarch's three hundred and seventeen sonnets. Moreover, Petrarch has two instances of the following arrangement: ABAB: BABA; and also two of yet another sequence: ABAB: BAAB. Now, al.