Richard Vallance.

July 2002 Vallance Review:

When is a Sonnet a Song? Part 1
(Part 2 to follow in December 2002)

Sara Russell: "Pianissimo", or The Musicality of the Sonnet


sara pic in sepia tint Poet, cartoonist and short story writer. Editor of Poetry Life & Times and Rock Garden website (rock music page, still being constructed)

Newsgroup signature was originally 'Pinky Andrexa, Last Of The Cyber Vixen Poets From Outer Space'. Enjoys Oscar Wilde, Kipling, Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allen Poe, Edward Lear.

Won Internet Arts Award from Kedco Studios Artist Profile Press, also runner up in Capricorn International Love Poetry competition 1998. Her website Poetry Life & Times recently won the Alpha Poets' Poetic Eyes web award. Won Poet of the Week in the Poetry For Thought group (The Globe groups) for the week April 28-May 4th, 2001, with the poem "If You Were Mine". Inducted into The Poets' Hall of Fame, 2001, and included in its anthology for that year.


4 e-books by Kedco Studios Artist Profile Press:
Pinky's Little Book of Shadows
A Way With Words
Spiders And Gliders (sci fi novel)
Quickies (short humourous/erotic stories for women)

Also published in two Kedco e-book Anthologies: Turn of The Century Award Winners' Anthology, the Millennium Dawn Anthology and published in numerous Forward Press bound book anthologies.


The Mirror (UK), October 1998, feature on first Kedco CD.
The Talking News (UK), local cassette of spoken news for the blind, article on first Kedco CD.
The Sunday Times (UK), mid-80's - one satirical poem featured.



William Wordsworth (1770-1850) all too lyrically expresses his profound admiration of the deeper music of poetry, when in his sonnet, he exults:

    Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frown'd,
    Mindless of its just honours; with this key
    Shakespeare unlock'd his heart; the melody
    Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
    A thousand times this pipe did Tasso [1] sound;
    With it Camöens [2] sooth'd an exile's grief;
    The Sonnet glitter'd a gay myrtle leaf
    Amid the cypress with which Dante crown'd
    His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
    It cheer'd mild Spenser, call'd from Faery-land
    To struggle through dark ways; and when a damp
    Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
    The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
    Soul-animating strains—alas, too few!

Readers of this review may recall some of my earlier observations on the sonnet as lyric, and its close relationship to the ballad and the songs of the troubadours in Medieval and early Renaissance Europe. History records that Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374), one of the earliest Italian sonneteers, was himself an accomplished musician skilled at the lute [3]. The fluent rhythms of his sonetti or “little songs”, addressed to the idealized Laura, attest to his delicate musicianship. The very title of the collected sonnets, Canzonieri or “Songs”, reveals that they were probably meant to be sung and accompanied by solo instrument, viz. the lute, and not merely recited or read. There is some historical evidence to support this claim [4]. A number of Petrarch’s sonetti have been scored for music, while other great sonneteers since have seen many of their sonnets put to song or vocals by various composers from the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century.

Where transcriptions to musical scores are concerned, Petrarch has plenty of company. Pierre de Ronsard’s exquisitely turned sonnets have been set to musical scores by so many great composers that there can be little or no doubt over their innate musical appeal. His sonnets have been celebrated in song by such greats as Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), Georges Bizet (1838-1875) “Vous méprisez nature”, Albert Roussel (1869-1937), "Ciel, air et cents" and Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), amongst others. [5] They are, almost literally, “music to the ears”.

Likewise, many of William Shakespeare’s [6] and Rainer Maria Rilke’s (late Romantic German) [7], have been set to music. The sonnets of several other poets, from the Renaissance to our day, have also found their way into musical scores, but our review does not have the scope to reference them all. Sometime in 2003, I shall compile and publish a more exhaustive bibliography on such sources for Poetry Life and Times.

Historical Treatment of Music As Theme In The Sonnet

Excerpts from five sonnets below, two from the Renaissance and three from the Romantic era, reveal more than a mere thematic treatment of music. They attest to the poets’ intimate familiarity with music and its rhythms. These lyrics appear to convey to us as readers or listeners (if we take the trouble to recite them aloud!) something of the the harmonics germane to music or indeed of the musical scores they invoke.

In particular, William Lisle Bowle’s exquisite reflection on "Hearing Handel’s Messiah in Gloucester Catherdral" below seems to have been composed for the "the musical ear". When I first read this lovely sonnet aloud, I found myself listening to certain passages of the score of Handel’s "Messiah" in my own mind.

With their musicality uppermost in mind, allow each of these delightful sonnets in turn sing for themselves, by reciting them aloud, paying close attention to the alliterative use of open or long and closed or short vowels, and their proximity to fluid consonants, notably the liquids, l and r and the mutes, m and n. You will be pleasantly surprised by the quasi-musical tonalities you will hear, if you listen with your musical ear.

Hear these two rhythmic Renaissance Sonnets:

1. Edmund Spenser: Sonnet XXXVIII

    Arion, when through tempests cruel wracke, He forth was thrown into the greedy seas: …

2. William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Sonnet CXXVIII.

    How oft when thou, my music, music play’st
    Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
    With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway’st…

- and these three musically appealing Romantic Sonnets:

3. Capel Lofft (1753-1824):

The Musical Analogies of the Universe

Now Hear this, as the poet plays on the open singing vowels: A, E, I and O.

    The Musical Analogies of the Universe: On Occasion of the Comet of 1811

    11 In radiant glory from that source of light, 12 In diapason voicest forth Heaven's state,…

4. William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850):

On Hearing "The Messiah" Performed in Gloucester Cathedral

On Hearing "The Messiah" Performed in Gloucester Cathedral – in which the lyricist exults:

    1 stay, harmonious and sweet sounds, that die… passim 5 Lifting the soul to brighter orbs on high,… passim 9 And I 10 Stand in the world of strife, amidst a throng,…
– and, last but far from least: 5. And listen closely to the delicious music of the he entire cycle of Rainer Maria Rilke's, Sonnets To Orpheus. To cite just a few telling verses from Rilke’s prophetic pen:
    A god can do it. How do you expect a man to squeeze on through the lyre and follow? … passim … no, Singing's Being. For the god, not daunting.
[For more sonnets illustrating music as theme, see References [8] to [19] at the end of this review.]


While there is no denying the finest of Twentieth Century blank and brilliant free verse invariably adhered to the fundamental precepts of harmony, it is also sadly evident that much of that era’s so-called "poetry" or verse not only (often deliberately) chose to ignore sound conventions of metrics and rhythm, but even cast aside the linguistic metastructure of grammar, composition and style for the sake of faddish, and occasionally specious writing.

Many poets, from the mid-Twentieth Century to fin de siècle, were apparently more concerned with immediate shock value of their work that they may have simply missed the lyric boat, no matter how great their poetry’s mass appeal. The overarching obsession of post-Second World War and latter day Twentieth Century poetry with existential Alienation and other such desperado themes made it the more unlikely versifiers would bother with a notion as antiquated as lyricism.


Lyricism is strictly based on musicality, which the world view of the existentially Absurd could only grudgingly accommodate. However, in the last decade of the Twentieth Century through to the beginning of the Twenty-First, Formalism has re-asserted its presence in English poetry, French verse and in other European languages. Formalist poetry is by definition structured poetry: it asserts the more (apparently) traditional values of rhyme, rhythm and metrification. There is emerging evidence to support the view that more formal poetic genres are on the ascendant, after falling into demise for the greater part of the Twentieth Century (at least from the 1940’s onwards). The sonnet in particular suffered the notoriety of being poema non gratum (essentially, “not cool”) for much of the last Century.

Recent trends in poetry, encouraged by the Internet’s provision of relatively free and universal access to all, poets and their readers alike, have permitted formalist poets to “be seen as well as heard”, and with rather surprising gusto. The rise of formalist poetry presupposes a corresponding renewed interest in lyrical poetry in general, and the sonnet in particular.

Does this necessarily mean people, lyrical poets, sonneteers and their readers alike, are as likely to be as fascinated by the music which may underscore such poetry as by its conventional metrics and rhythmic structure, be it iambic pentameter or otherwise? The answer, I think, is most likely, yes, at least for some of the new Century's more innovative poets and readers – or should I say, "listeners"?

The concept of marrying lyrical poetic forms, including the sonnet, with musical scores is, as we have seen, hardly a new one. However, until just before the New Millenium, poetry and music had been traditionally viewed as separate arts. With the possible exception of Petrarch and a few other early Italian sonneteers, poets would have surely composed their sonnets first, and these would then, if at all, be set to musical scores, invariably by someone else, a troubadour, musician or composer.

It is striking that only in the 19th. and 20th. Centuries, composers began to take a keen interest in setting sonnets to music on a relatively large scale. The trend has recently grown even more widespread.

With the advent of super computer graphics and powerful sound-mixing technologies, the possibilities for melding the composition of lyrical poetry and music, and indeed visual art, into one medium, are becoming very enticing, to say the least. Many experiments have already been assayed, as for instance Charles Wolff’s music scoring of several of Shakespeare’s sonnets [6.1]. Music for the New Millennium [7.1], is another American group, which has set Rainer Maria Rilke’s sonorous sonnets to music, formatted them in PDF format and even accompanied them with Quick Time Movies. But even these recent developments have more often than not been after the fact.

The day has yet to come when sonneteers write their sonnets and simultaneously compose them to music, and on a large scale. But come it will, of that I am sure.

We are indeed at a threshold. It seems highly probable that, in this Century, many of the Arts, as we know them separately now, will anneal into one supra-Art form, which merges literary (including poetic and lyric), graphic, motion and musical elements. The resulting artistic productions should prove exciting.


This remarkably fluid sonnet is almost a Mirror to Music, in the tradition of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 128, Pierre de Ronsard’s lyrical jewels, William Lisle Bowles’, “On Hearing Handel’s Messiah”, and Capel Lofft’s, "The Musical Analogies of the Universe". While Sara did not compose music for this sonnet, it seems she would have had some specific piece of music foremost in mind, when she penned it — music which must have haunted and enchanted her heart for years before she was inspired to convey in lyrical poetry the measures she had actually heard with her own ears. Her sonnet, PIANISSIMO, illustrates her manifest delight with music in its own right, its captivating sounds and its enchanting melodies, and with its actual performance and its profound effects on the human mind, emotions and soul. This sonnet appears to be more concerned with the effects of the piano music itself than with the impression(s) the sonnet may have on its "reader" - or perhaps we should say, "listener" in this case. You may recall one of my earlier reviews, in which I focussed on the musical imagery and flow present in Jim Dunlap’s sonnet, Sharps and Flats (Vallance Review, January, 2002). Well, Sara’s sonnet melody appears to take Jim’s pre-occupation with music even further. Let’s have a look or, rather, listen!


    He plays with tender notes in minor scale
    So perfectly in pianissimo
    Each note becomes the whisper of a veil
    Soft-sliding through the air, sedate and slow.
    Long fingers fly to alabaster keys
    To touch each one with measured gentleness;
    Lost love and passion, pastel memories,
    Twist through the air like smoke with each caress.
    Now he evokes a distant, deep lagoon,
    Now sunset skies, now snow falling at night,
    Now a dark ocean, mirror to the moon:
    In Ultramarine streaked with pearly white.
    He plays a language words can seldom show,
    In slow, entrancing pianissimo.

    © Sara Russell 2001 (April)

Melodic Influences on Sara’s Rhythms and Metre:

What can be said about the musicalilty of Sara’s metrics and rhythms in this melodious piece? Certain combinations of vowels and consonants play together, in unison, as it were. For instance, we encounter a felicitous marriage of the explosives p, c and t with the purring lenitive e’s in "perfectly" and the Italianate i’s in "pianissimo". We hear the pianist’s fingers dexterously running the scales, but the sounds are soft and muted, "pianissimo."

Other examples abound, but here are some that stand out for me:

– in verse 3, "the whisper of a veil" (which reinforces the peacefulness of verse 2)

– in verse 4, the phrase, "sedate and slow", whose cadence applies the "breaks" to "Soft-sliding through the air", mimicking the andante rhythm of the keynotes.

– in verse 5, however, the rhythm abruptly changes to allegro, "Long fingers fly to alabaster keys"

Subsequently, in the first tercet, verses 9 through 11, the invocation of the subordinating, "Now" introducing the lines is a highly effective poetic technique, which has been used throughout sonnet history, by such greats as Petrarch, Pierre de Ronsard and William Shakespeare.

And verse 12, "In Ultramarine streaked with pearly white", brilliantly evokes not only the sounds, harmony and music emanating from the piano’s keys, but their flash as the pianist’s lithe fingers run along them!

Finally, it could not have escaped my attention that Sara has chosen the Petrarchan form for this sonnet, rather than the Spenserian or Shakespearian. This is a fitting choice, as a sonnet devoted to music is probably best set to the Petrarchan. Even her rhymes are more Italianate then they are English. Sara has end-rhymed several verses with vowel sounds, which is much more in keeping with the sounds of Italian than of English. For instance, we have, "scale" with "veil" (where the semi-consonant or semi-vowel "l" is almost silent, "pianissimo" with "slow" (where the "w" is completely unvoiced!), "keys" with "memories" (both open "e" sounds), and "show" with "pianissimo" (again the "w" is mute). Even the consonantal end-rhymes, "moon" and "lagoon" are primarily vowel-driven, as "n" is a mute consonant! Whether Sara sought out such rhymes intentionally I cannot guess. But that is a moot point. The fact remains that this sonnet does sound like a Petrarchan sonnet.

Is This Sonnet Merely A "Memory" of the Pianist's Performance?

If it is not merely the poet's memory of the pianist’s performance, then what else or what more can it signify? Let’s have a closer look at the poem itself for evidence of musical intensity, and pianistic effects. Who knows? Perhaps someday, soon enough, someone will set Sara’s lovely evocation of a soirée with the piano to music, or even more, to music and digital motion pictures? Only time can tell.

If this ever happens, she will be in fine company; for I entertain little doubt that the sonnets of Thomas Wyatt, William Shakespeare, Joachim du Bellay, even more those of Pierre de Ronsard, sonnets by John Keats and Christina Rossetti, still more Rilke’s, "Sonnets to Orpheus" cycle, those of Gérard de Nerval and Émile Nelligan, as well as of countless other fine poets of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, such as Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) and Alan Seeger (1888-1916), will sooner or later find their way into the new millenium’s repertoire of emerging expressionistic multi-media poetic art forms.


Notes on Wordsworth’s sonnet, Scorn not the Sonnet [1] Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), born in Sorrento, was perhaps the greatest Italian poet of the late Renaissance. In 1575, he authored, La Gerusalamme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered, in which he celebrated the capture of the Holy City during the Crusades. By the 1570s, Tasso was victim of a persecution complex. He died a few days before he was due to be crowned as poet laureate by the Pope.

[2] Luis de Camoëns (ca. 1524-1580) was one of Portugal's finest Renaissance poets. In 1572, he published his masterpiece, the "Luisades", which has since become the national Epic of Portugal. It is an epic in ten Cantos, which evoke all the magic and mystery of Portugal's vibrant explorers, most notably, Vasco de Gama's voyages to the far Indies.

[3] For an interesting introduction to early stages of the sonnet in Italian literature, please consult this link:

The Worlds of the Renaissance: Projects - Mark Scandling. Playing with Words and Music: Reading and Hearing a Madrigal and Sonnet Jacques Arcadelt Il bianco e dolce cigno (c. 1539, early madrigal) William Shakespeare Sonnet 135 (1590s):

The Worlds of the Renaissance. Playing with Words and Music:

To cite just a few examples of the lovely scores, to which many of Petrarch’ sonnets have been set, please consult the following links:

3.1 Claudio Monteverdi: Monteverdi: Madrigals, Book 6. Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali (1614) Concerto Italiano 3.2 FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886). THE COMPLETE MUSIC FOR SOLO PIANO - 43. Deuxième Année de Pèlerinage - Italie (Venezia e Napoli), which contains piano solo music to his Sonetti 47, 104 & 123 - at this link:

3.3 Arnold Schoenberg’s Serenade, Opus 24, a translation into German of one of the movements of one of Petrarch’s sonnets.

This is an excoriating essay on one interpreter’s take on Schoenberg’s adaptation of Petrarch’s poetry, and the author does not shy away from condemning, à la Wordsworth (see above Introduction), self-styled "experts", with whom the artistic, literary and music world jas historically been and is still sadly overpopulated:

[4] Some sources support the view that Petrarch’s sonnets were probably sung and accompanied by the lute; others do not.

4.1 For supporting views, see:

What exactly is a sonnet? ... where the author claims that sonnets were originally short poems accompanied by the mandolin or lute, and that the Italian sonnet was probably derived from the stanza structure of the Italian canzone or folk song.

... and - Something on the Sonnet (an essay appreciative of the natural musical rhythms of the sonnet in general, rather than focussing on the sonnet as music per se:

4.2 For dissenting voices, see:

Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, the earl of Surrey

... and -

... where the author asserts that the mention of musical instruments, however frequent, in Elizabethan sonnets, is probably a literary device.

[5] For selected references to Pierre de Ronsard’s sonnets scored in music, see the following sites:

5.1 For a comprehensive list of Ronsard’s poems and sonnets set to music by such composers as Roland de Lassus (1532-1594), Pauline Viardot-Garcia (1821-1910) , Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), Georges Bizet (1838-1875) "Vous méprisez nature", Albert Roussel (1869-1937), "Ciel, air et cents", Jacques Ibert (1890-1962), Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) and Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), amongst others, see this thoroughly delightful site:

Pierre de Ronsard: SONG TEXTS:

5.2 Discographies on Lexnet European Information:

Gouvy, Théodore (1819-1898) Lieder - aus 40 poésies de Pierre de Ronsard Op. 37, 41, 42, 43, 44, 47, Aus la Pléiade française Op. 48, Six poésies allamandes de Moritz Hartmann (poésie française d'Adolphe Larmande) Op. 21. Yaron Windmüller (bariton), Thomas Hans (piano)

Orfeo C 451 981 A, CD ddd, 1998

5.3 Harrassowitz: Composers' Collected Editions from Europe Title Index

"Le Bouquet de Ronsard". Cantate pour voix, piano, choeurs et orchestre. 31 poèmes de Pierre de Ronsard avec 15 préludes et interludes. Composés de 1947 à 1955.

5.4 Régis Campo (French musician, born 1968), various musical compositions, including:

Chanson d'après Ronsard (1997) pour soprano et piano (poème de Pierre de Ronsard) jouée par la Péniche-Opéra (1998) par Béatrice Cramoix et Claude Lavoix à Paris (inédite)

Régis Campo

[6] For just a few of the numerous WEB sites dedicated to Shakespeare’s Sonnets set to musical scores, see:

6.1 For adaptations of several of Shakespeare’s sonnets (2,27,30,43,53,57,66,73,94,106,138 & 146) see The Rhythm of the Sonnets. This was Wolff's Spring 1998 semester project at Mesa Community College, Mesa, Arizona semester. The project's goal was to adapt a dozen of Shakespeare's sonnets for use as contemporary song lyrics. The song cycle was recorded in his home studio, using "Band In A Box" software, with vocals, guitars, synthesizers and other instrumentals. The song cycle was recorded onto CD. The site includes REAL AUDIO clips of portions of the songs. Here is the link to this fascinating site:

6.2 See also Shakespeare in Song, another intriguing WEB Site devoted to the setting of Shakespeare’s sonnets to song at:

6.3 On a Site called, "Sonnets", scroll a little more than half way down the page to the section:

"adaptations in music" by Igor Stravinksy, Hanns Eisler and Dmitri Shostakovich

6.4 Songs to Shakespeare (4 Sonnets) by Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Graham Johnson (Audio CD). See:

6.5 OBERON. Sonnet. A Review of 12 of Shakespeare’s sonnets set to music by the group, Oberon and composed by Trammel Starks and the Taliesin Orchestra. The reviewers recommend the album, whose musical lyrics echo the theme of the sonnets they represent.

Oberon Sonnet (Koch)

[7] Rainer Maria Rilke

7.1 Sonnets to Orpheus Second Part, XXIX. “Still friend of many distances”. Musical score by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Präludium No.1 in C

7.2 Duino Elegies/The Sonnets to Orpheus Robert Hunter Initial release : 1993

Sonnets to Orpheus with Tom Constanten providing piano interludes

7.3 For an all-new recording of music to Rilke’s Sonnets, see the music of American composer Richard Danielpour in Sonnets to Orpheus (May, 2001)

Richard Danielpour - Sonnets to Orpheus, Book I

Richard Danielpour - Sonnets to Orpheus, Book II

Further References to Sonnets Dealing With Music

[8] FROM: The Poetry Archive

by: Edmund Spenser

    But when in hand my tunelesse harp I take,
    then doe I more augment my foes despight:...

[9] Shakespeare. Sonnet VIII

    1 Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
    " passim "
    9 Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
    10 Strikes each in each by mutual ordering...

[10] Louise Labé

    Sonnet XIII Luth, compagnon de ma calamité, De mes soupirs témoin irréprochable, De mes ennuis contrôleur véritable, Tu as souvent avec moi lamenté ;...

[11] John Milton

    To Mr. H. Lawes on his Airs

    Harry, whose tuneful and well-measured song
    First taught our English music how to span
    Words with just note and accent, ...

[12] Capel Lofft (1753-18 Sonnet XXXII. See also [14] below.

(Scroll down to the bottom of the page)

    That the True Structure of the Sonnet Should Be Observ'd
    by Authors of Genius Who Thus Entitle Their Poems

    7 The Muse selects, their ear the charm obeys
    Of its full harmony: ... passim

    14 Those it becomes whose lyre a favoring impulse sways.

[13] Peter Bayley (1778?-1823) [born Phildelphia]

    On Hearing an Eolian Harp 3 And now, in falls and dying symphonies, 4 So sweet it glides, that forth my rapt soul goes 5 To join those hymnings, ta'en from all her woes. 6 Yet once more, and once more, ye minstrelsies 7 Of power, my stormy spirit to appease,...
[14] Henry Kirke White (1785-1806)

    In Reply to the XXXII Sonnet of Capel Lofft Let the sublimer Muse,... 11 Of mingled melody, to grace my strain, 12 And give it * power to please, as soft it flows 13 Through the smooth murmurs of thy frequent close.
[15] Ebenezer Elliot (1781-1849)

Powers of the Sonnet

    The sonnet's might is mightier than it seems:

    10 That the scorned sonnet's charm may yet endear
    11 Some long deep strain, or lay of well-tolled woes; -

[16] Dante Gabriel Rossetti

    Her lute hangs shadowed in the apple-tree, While flashing fingers weave the sweet-strung spell Between its chords; and as the wild notes swell, In answering echoes from what planisphere, Along the wind, along the estuary?

In and of itself, Rossetti’s neologism, "planisphere" is a rhyhmic - I should even venture, musical - tour de force.

A Sea Spell

[17] Frederick George Scott (1861-?) [Canadian]

(remembers keyboard music played by his deceased daughter)

    At Nightfall O little hands, long vanished in the night-- Sweet fairy hands that were my treasure here-- My heart is full of music from some sphere, Where ye make melody for God's delight.

[18] Gérard de Nerval (18nn-18nn) [français]

    Je suis le Tenebreux 1 Je suis le Tenebreux, -le Veuf-, l'inconsole, ... passim 3 Ma seule etoile est morte, -et mon luth constelle 4 Porte le Soleil noir de la Melancolie. ... passim 12 Et j'ai deux fois vainqueur traverse l'Acheron: 13 Modulant tour a tour sur la lyre d'Orphee 14 Les soupirs de la Sainte et les cris de la Fee.

[Transliteration by Richard Vallance]

    (I am) A Man of Shadows 1 (I am) A Man of Shadows, Widowed, not consoled, ... ...passim 3 My star dies alone, — my galaxy’s lute 4 Plays Melancholia to the Sun’s gold. ...passim 12 And I have come to vanquish Charon’s Styx: 13 Playing antiphonally Orpheus’ lyre 14 To the sighs of the Saint and the Fay Choir.
[19] Ok, this last one is not a sonnet. But it sure comes as a surprise,to say the least. Just look who the poet is! If you read this Ballad in its entirety, I guarantee you will be profoundly moved. Moreover, the rest of Marx’s verse at this site is equally impressive!

Early Works of Karl Marx: Book of Verse

    The Magic Harp, A Ballad [on the death of his father] So strangely in the ear it sings, Like thrilling harp, like trembling strings, It wakes the Minstrel sleeping…

CONCLUSION: The Sonnet's Swansong?

As I began on a note of Wordsworth’s, I conclude on one of the great French-Canadian sonneteer, Émile Nelligan (1879-1941), whose poetry is without the slightest doubt on the same melodic level as that of Pierre de Ronsard and Gérard de Nerval. You may read it and others of his exquisite poems devoted to music in all its avatars, at:

    Vieux piano L'âme ne frémit plus chez ce vieil instrument ; Son couvercle baissé lui donne un aspect sombre ; Relégué du salon, il sommeille dans l'ombre Ce misanthrope aigri de son isolement. Je me souviens encor des nocturnes sans nombre Que me jouait ma mère, et je songe, en pleurant, À ces soirs d'autrefois - passés dans la pénombre, Quand Liszt se disait triste et Beethoven mourant. Ô vieux piano d'ébène, image de ma vie, Comme toi du bonheur ma pauvre âme est ravie, Il te manque une artiste, il me faut L'Idéal ; Et pourtant là tu dors, ma seule joie au monde, Qui donc fera renaître, ô détresse profonde, De ton clavier funèbre un concert triomphal ?
[Transliteration into English Sonnet © 2002 by Richard Vallance]

    The Old Piano The soul no longer plays one lacquered key; Her piano’s hood is draped in its shroud; In its dim salon, sad misanthropy Mourns, nevermore heard, never sings aloud. I remember Beethoven’s still nocturne My mother would play as I wept, or harp In soirées past, now dim past all return, Where Liszt his master mourned in E flat sharp. Images if keys, symbols of my life, Play out notes of joy scored through by a knife, Where is your artist, where my Ideal? If you must slumber on, my sole desire, Who may de profundis yet revive you, To hear your lyrics' Victorious fire?

© by Richard Vallance, 2002

June 10th., 2002

PART 2 of this Review is to follow in the Vallance Review, December, 2002:

Is the Sonnet Music?

© Vallance Review June 2002

My Carousel Home Page is: Poesie’s laissez-faire Faire Foire


Describe Adonis:

Kawasaki Zen Haiku:

Vous pouvez enfin lire
le volume 1, numéro 2, de l'e-zine canadien,


- celui de l'été, 2002. Dans ce numéro, l'écrivaine en vedette, c'est Sara Russell, rédactrice de l'e-zine anglais, Poetry Life and Times chez le lien suivant :


Dans le numéro actuel, on trouve aussi des sonnets par Brian Whatcott ( des États Unis ), de « la pomme de terre terrible » ( Royaume Uni ) et de Richard Vallance, le rédacteur ( Canada ). Les sonnets sont classés de façon thématique. On peut lire tranquillement des sonnets estivaux, des sonnets portant sur le sujet universel de l'Amour, sous la rubrique, "Love's Labour lost?" ( soit, « À la recherche de l'Amour perdu? » ), et si vous voulez bien, même des sonnets bizarres de « Commediadel Arte » ! Alors, c'est bien rigolo, n'est-ce pas? Et bien! Qu'attendez-vous? - l'apocalypse? Allez-y tout de suite!

The Summer, 2002 issue
(Vol. 1, no. 2) of:


- which features the sonneteer, Sara Russell, the Editor of the UK E-Zine, Poetry Life and Times, is now on the WEB here:


Our Summer issue also features sonnets by Brian Whatcott (USA), the Potato Tarquin of Terror (UK) and Richard Vallance, Editor (Canada).

The current issue arranges sonnets thematically. You may read at your leisure: Summer's sonnets, "Love's Labour Lost?" sonnets and even Commedia del Arte ones! Sounds like great fun, and it is! OK, so what are you waiting for? - the end of the world?

Come on in!

Click here to return to rest of the July 2002 issue

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