April is recognized as poetry month and poetry itself has many defining moments in its history. That is recognized in many languages too.
The earliest well known poems are anonymous British verse like the late 14th century Middle English piece, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and also the Old English heroic epic poem, “Beowulf” which is now most widely understood than ever since Gaelic writer, Seamus Heaney, translated it into more approachable and understandable verse.
Many of the earliest poems weren’t even written out in printable form, but memorized over the years and sent down to generation after generation.
Epic poems like The Iliad and The Odyssey are Greek masterpieces that are very heady and very lengthy to read even with the English translation. The Middle English Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is a book length series of narrative poems like “The Wife of Bath” and “The Pardoner” to name a couple.
This Middle English masterpiece of literature is nearly impossible for the average reader to comprehend without an accurate Modern translation line by line to be seen.
Then, of course, the sonnet is the next in history to cover if you’re a poetry aficionado. Reading all types of poems can definitely help to improve the diversity of a writer’s style if they’re an aspiring poet. A sonnet is often difficult to understand and needs to be re-read many times to properly digest it.
The original fourteen line rhyming poem originated around 1235 in southern Italy and its term sonnet is established from the term ‘sonneto’ which is Italian for ‘a little sound’ or ‘a little song.’ *1 The Italian sonnets are referred to as Petrarchan and the latter ones from England are known as Elizabethan from the times of Queen Elizabeth I mostly written by William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser and John Milton during the Early Modern English eras.
The Petrarchan sonnets are stylized in an Italian rhyming scheme made famous by Francesco Petrarch, who was born in the 14th century of Italian descent. *2
Elizabethan sonnets are of iambic pentameter with rhyming couplet and fourteen lines and stylized very tightly. More modern writers of the sonnet have taken liberties of just making the poem fourteen lines without adhering to any of these strict contingencies of the original.
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