Analysis of John Keats” “On the Sonnet”

In John Keats’ “On the Sonnet,” he urges fellow poets to not let their poetic genius, their “Muse” die, as a result of it’s confined to the parameters of then-current Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnet forms. While he follows neither type, (thus requiring additional evaluation to determine the logic of his poem), his use of symbolism makes his message more than clear.

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He begins the poem with an allusion to Andromeda, “who, in accordance with Greek fantasy, was chained to a rock so that she would be devoured by a sea monster” (Norton 799).

He makes use of this image to characterize the destiny of poetry, if it follows the unsatisfactory type of either Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnets. This image is portrayed in the first three traces, “If by boring rhymes our English have to be chained, /And like Andromeda, the sonnet candy /Fettered, despite ache and loveliness,” which may be translated as “If our poetry should be confined by the present sonnet varieties, and face the destiny of Andromeda, despite our cautious attention…[then…].

The second clause of the thought launched in strains one via three, the implied “then,” is found in strains 4 by way of 9. Keats writes, “Let us discover, if we must be constrained, /Sandals extra interwoven and complete /To match the naked foot of Poesy: /Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress /Of each chord, and see what may be gained /By ear industrious, and a spotlight meet.” According to the footnote offered in Norton, Poesy refers to a necessity voiced in a letter, by which Keats wrote out this poem after which mentioned his “impatience with the standard Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnet types: ‘I have been endeavoring to discover a greater sonnet stanza than we have.


The word “lyre” can imply “harp,” however may additionally be an emblem for “lyric poetry,” and “chord” can mean “a string of a musical instrument, such as a harp,” however can also discuss with poetry, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. With this in thoughts, strains 4 through 9 could be interpreted to mean, “[if we must be chained like this], then let’s find intricately woven sandals, (symbolic of recent, undiscovered sonnet types; Keats’ “need”), to satisfy my need: let’s inspect the harp (symbolic of lyric poetry), and hear to each chord (continuing the metaphor of the harp, chords are symbolic of traces inside lyric poetry), and let’s see what we will accomplish through careful listening and attention.”

Finally, within the last 5 traces of the sonnet, Keats directly addresses his fellow poets as “misers,” which has a double which means. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “misers” means “poets,” but it additionally means “miserable people.” This intentional word pun expresses Keats’ view that poets are currently miserable, because of the inadequacy of the present sonnet varieties. In traces ten through fourteen, he writes, “Misers of sound and syllable, no much less /Than Midas of his coinage, let us be /Jealous of lifeless leaves within the bay-wreath crown; /So, if we may not let the Muse be free, /She might be bound with garlands of her own.” Midas was a king who had the ability to show every thing that he touched into gold. According to Norton, “jealous” meant “suspiciously watchful.”

Also, in reference to “the bay-wreath crown,” based on the sixth footnote, “The bay tree was sacred to Apollo, god of poetry, and bay wreaths came to represent true poetic achievement. The withering of the bay tree is sometimes thought of an omen of death.” Keats continued the thought, implying that when the leaves of the bay-wreath crown, which represents “true poetic achievement,” start to die, they’re a warning of dying to that very piece of poetry. Finally “Muse” refers to a poet’s inspiration, which may be killed once it is “bound” by the dying leaves (garland) of the bay-wreath crown,” which is completed by not using one’s Muse to its fullest inventive potential. These traces can thus be translated as “Fellow miserable/ pissed off poets, let’s be ‘suspiciously watchful’ of omens of death to our poetry; if we don’t let our inspiration run free, it’ll die too.”

John Keats, clearly disillusioned by the out there varieties through which to put in writing poetry, expresses his dissatisfaction in his sonnet, “On the Sonnet.” Because he makes use of an ambiguous, unidentifiable sonnet type, as an alternative of the Shakespearean or the Petrarchan sonnet types, the integrity of his argument is not undermined. In this fashion, not solely does he categorical his hatred for the present sonnet types, but refuses to make use of them as he communicates this frustration in his personal sonnet.

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