The sonnet was adopted by English writers in the mid-16th century from the love poetry of the Italian Renaissance. Its origin can be traced to 13th century Italy where the fourteen-line poem originated as a verse form to express stylised, courtly love. Petrarch, and later Dante, used the sonnet to express the changing circumstances of their times and the emerging Renaissance humanist vision.
It was Sir Thomas Wyatt, stimulated by contact with Italian literary men while serving in the diplomatic service, who first began to translate and emulate the work of Petrarch. Edmund Spenser carried forward the development, substituting the Protestant-Platonic ideal of pure and virtuous courtship for the defunct theme of courtly love. The Elizabethan sonnet reached its consummation in the genius of Shakespeare.
With the exception of those of Shakespeare, the sonnet, as a verse form capable of expressing the mood and lyrical outlook of any age, has, in the opinion of the author, suffered undeserved neglect. In this selection of over a hundred and fifty sonnets Kenneth Verity shows how successfully this verse form can be used to address the issues of the 21st century, where the stress of modern living has cut the individual off from the harmony of his being with the order of the universe – as Shakespeare put it in it in The Merchant of Venice: ‘Such harmony is in immortal souls.’
There are three sections:
- Man and the Natural World
- Exploring Metaphysics
- The Nature of Love
In this selection of over a hundred and fifty sonnets Kenneth Verity shows how successfully this verse form can be used to address the issues of the 21st century.
Kenneth Verity was born in 1931. His English Literature tutor – a descendant of Sarah Siddons – engendered a deep attraction to the works of Shakespeare and a sustained interest in the four thousand years old history of poetry. While working and travelling extensively in the Far East, he studied Buddhism in its Mahayana, Hinayana and Zen forms with masters from Tibet, Thailand and Korea. He is an initiate of the Mevlevi Order of Whirling Dervishes based at Konya in Turkey. For many years he directed the Eastern Arts Department of Art in Action, a large, annual, international arts festival near Oxford.