E-steddfod: A sssonnet with “S”

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Surrey’s Souvenir Sonnet

Saturn’s spring sent Surrey salutary signs.

Surpliced, speaking stiffly – sonorously

set Surrey somnolent: sorting scrawny skeins.

Sleepwalking, strays spasmodically, sighs.

Suddenly, Saturn startles Sedentary Scion…

stands stiffly, slowly sheds sleep.

Stretches, searches skyward, stunned,

sees specter signaling, sentience seeps…

Smile surfaces – seeds showing shoots,

stripling’s samskara superseded….

sensual snow showers sapience.

Shaken, Surrey sees sonnet’s symmetry.

Seizing style, studying, spectrals surge.

Spigot spins, shackles struck. Silver sentences stream,

stuffing stupendous stein, satiating. Surfeit!

Sobering, Surrey spawns scholarly superabundancy.

Soon, Surrey’s songs show Shakespeare

such sublime schemes, such scrumptious schemas….

Stanzas shaped situations. Songs swayed suitors.

So smoothly, Surrey subdued slurry.

Successfully, sage Surrey subjugated society…

save sweet scheming Seymour, singularly

skeptical, strangely steadfast. Seduction spurned?

Sanctuary squandered, Seymour snags Scion’s skull.

Summam scrutemur: Sonnet’s swift soaring swayed Surrey’s swan song.


The sonnet form was introduced in England by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547). They translated Italian sonnets into English and wrote sonnets of their own. Wyatt and Surrey sometimes replaced Petrarch’s scheme of an eight-line stanza and a six-line stanza with three four-line stanzas and a two-line conclusion known as a couplet. Shakespeare adopted the latter scheme in his sonnets.  Besides Shakespeare, well known English sonneteers in the late 1500’s included Sir Philip Sydney, Samuel Daniel, and Michael Drayton

The Howards were in trouble when Jane Seymour became queen in 1536, and the Seymours, a rival faction at court, began their scheming in earnest. In 1537, the Seymours accused the Howards of sympathizing with the rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and Surrey was imprisoned on that suspicion.  Surrey’s famous poem “Prisoned in Windsor“, in which he recalls his boyhood days in Windsor, dates from the same year. The accusations were patently false; after all, Surrey and his father had fought to put down the rebellion.
When Henry VIII’s health was failing in 1546, Surrey made the mistake of announcing his opinion of the obviousness of his father’s becoming Protector to young Prince Edward. The Seymours finally had their day, when Surrey ill-advisedly displayed royal quarterings on his shield. Arrested along with his father on charges of treason, they were imprisoned in the Tower, condemned and executed on January 19, 1547 on Tower Hill.

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