Petrarchan Sonnet Poems

Petrarchan sonnets, also known as Italian sonnets, are a classical form of verse that originated in Italy during the Renaissance. These sonnets consist of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter.

The structure is divided into an octave (8 lines) followed by a sestet (6 lines). The rhyme scheme of the octave is typically ABBAABBA, while the sestet can have several variations, such as CDECDE or CDCDCD.

Petrarchan sonnets are known for their lyrical and emotional expressions of love, beauty, and spiritual contemplation. The octave usually presents a problem or situation, while the sestet offers a resolution, reflection, or response to the initial theme.

This poetic form has been widely used by poets such as Petrarch, Dante, and Shakespeare.

Sonnet 227

by Petrarch

‘Sonnet 227’ is about “Love,” particularly “Unrequited love.” Petrarch expresses his deep love for Laura, her indifference towards his love, and the various contrasting emotions he undergoes in the poem.

The Petrarchan sonnet is a 14-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme that was popularized by Petrarch in the 14th century. This is seen in this specific poem to a fantastic degree. This form has been widely used by poets ever since and continues to be admired for its elegance and beauty.

Breeze, blowing that blonde curling hair,

stirring it, and being softly stirred in turn,

scattering that sweet gold about, then

gathering it, in a lovely knot of curls again,



by Giusue Carducci

‘Virgil’ by Giusue Carducci uses nature imagery to evoke historical and mythical themes and events.

This poem is written in the Petrarchan sonnet form, which consists of an eight-line stanza (octave) followed by a six-line stanza (sestet). This form was popularized by the Italian poet Petrarch in the 14th century and has been used by many poets since then, including Carducci.

As when above the heated fields the moon

Hovers to spread its veil of summer frost,

The brook between its narrow banks half lost

Glitters in pale light, murmuring its low tune;

The Windhover

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

‘The Windhover’ is an incredibly important poem that Hopkins considered to be his best. It uses symbolism to speak about God and faith.

'The Windhover' is an example of a Petrarchan sonnet. The poem is divided into short stanzas, but the total number of lines equals fourteen. The poem also follows a unique sound pattern that's used in most of Hopkins' poems (sprung rhythm).

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

There May Be Chaos Still Around The World

by George Santayana

‘There May Be Chaos Still Around The World’ by George Santayana describes a speaker who has escaped the world at large and is only existing within his own mind.

This poem conforms, loosely, to the style of a Petrarchan sonnet. This means that it mostly follows a rhyme scheme of ABBAABBACDCD (or CDECDE). The poem is also fourteen lines long, another determining factor of Petrarchan sonnets.

There may be chaos still around the world,

This little world that in my thinking lies;

For mine own bosom is the paradise

Where all my life’s fair visions are unfurled.

“Let the world’s sharpness…” Sonnets from the Portuguese (XXIV)

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Let the world’s sharpness’ (Sonnet 24) is a poem that proposes a resolution to the world’s strife — all turn to, and accept, Love. 

Let the world's sharpness, like a clasping knife,

Shut in upon itself and do no harm

In this close hand of Love, now soft and warm,

And let us hear no sound of human strife

Batter my Heart (Holy Sonnet 14)

by John Donne

‘Batter my Heart,’ also known as ‘Holy Sonnet 14,’ is one of Donne’s best religious poems. It is directed at God and asks him to take hold of the speaker.

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

Explore more Petrarchan Sonnet poems

Horace to Leuconoe

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson’s sonnet ‘Horace to Leuconoe’ is a passionate address of a lover to a girl, brooding over what God might have in store for her. He advises her to seize the moment and forget about the past and the future.

How Soon Hath Time

by John Milton

John Milton’s infamous literary classic, ‘How Soon Hath Time’ explores various aspects, reflecting on his mood, conflicts with beliefs, and personal shortcomings, and most of all, the expediency of time.

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,

       Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!

       My hasting days fly on with full career,

       But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.

Human Interest

by Carol Ann Duffy

Fifteen years minimum, banged up inside

for what took thirty seconds to complete.

She turned away. I stabbed. I felt this heat

burn through my skull until reason had died.

I wish I could remember that first day

by Christina Rossetti

‘I wish I could remember that first day’ by Christina Rossetti is also known as ‘First Day.’ It focuses on the speaker’s regret that she can’t remember more about her first love.

I wish I could remember that first day,

   First hour, first moment of your meeting me,

   If bright or dim the season, it might be

Summer or winter for aught I can say;

Madonna Mia

by Oscar Wilde

‘Madonna Mia’ by Oscar Wilde is a beautiful and interesting poem. In it, the speaker describes a “lily-girl.” 

A lily-girl, not made for this world’s pain,

With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,

And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears

Like bluest water seen through mists of rain:

Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room

by William Wordsworth

‘Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room’ by William Wordsworth is a thoughtful poem that expresses the poet’s appreciation for his chosen path. 

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;

And hermits are contented with their cells;

And students with their pensive citadels;

Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell

by John Keats

‘O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell’ by John Keats is a fourteen-line sonnet that is contained within one block of text. It expresses the speaker’s intention to find somewhere peaceful, in a valley, amongst trees, bees, and deer to live out his days.

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,

Let it not be among the jumbled heap

Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—

Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,

On Easter Day

by Oscar Wilde

‘On Easter Day’ by Oscar Wilde asks readers to consider how Christian teachings align with the modern-day Pope. It’s about the importance of not putting man-made desires and institutions ahead of God. 

The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:

The people knelt upon the ground with awe:

And borne upon the necks of men I saw,

Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles

by John Keats

‘On Seeing the Elgin Marbles’ by John Keats is a poem about mortality. The speaker observes the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum and is moved by their power. 

My spirit is too weak—mortality

   Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,

   And each imagined pinnacle and steep

Of godlike hardship tells me I must die

On the Massacre of Christians in Bulgaria

by Oscar Wilde

‘On the Massacre of the Christians in Bulgaria’ is a sonnet that questions the divinity of God after a massacre of Christians in Batak, Bulgaria. 

Christ, dost Thou live indeed? or are Thy bones

Still straitened in their rock-hewn sepulchre?

And was Thy Rising only dreamed by her

Whose love of Thee for all her sin atones?


by Alice Meynell

‘Renouncement’ by Alice Meynell is a passionate poem in which the speaker fights to fend off thoughts of the person she loves. She refuses to allow herself to think about this person during the day.

Sonnet 16

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 16’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, also known as ‘And yet, because thou overcomest so,’ speaks to the poet’s intention to live happily from now on.

And yet, because thou overcomest so,

Because thou art more noble and like a king,

Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling

Thy purple round me, till my heart shall grow

Sonnet 20 (Beloved, my Beloved, when I think)

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 20’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, also known as ‘Beloved, my Beloved, when I think’ explores the ways that a new love changed a speaker’s life.

Beloved, my Beloved, when I think 

That thou wast in the world a year ago, 

What time I sate alone here in the snow 

And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink 

Sonnet 35

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 35’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning expresses the speaker’s worries about the changes in her life. She embarks on a new life with her beloved and hopes he’s ready to accept her in the same way she’s accepting him.

If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange

And be all to me? Shall I never miss

Home-talk and blessing and the common kiss

That comes to each in turn, nor count it strange,

Sonnet 7

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 7’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a love sonnet that is dedicated to the poet’s husband, Robert Browning. It expresses her happiness that he came into her life and changed her outlook as he did.  

The face of all the world is changed, I think,

Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul

Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole

Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink

Sonnet 8

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Sonnet 8’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, also known as ‘What can I give thee back, O liberal,’ is a Petrarchan sonnet. It explores the poet’s relationship with her new lover, Robert Browning. 

What can I give thee back, O liberal

And princely giver, who hast brought the gold

And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold,

And laid them on the outside of the-wall

Sonnet 8

by Louise Labé

The French poet Louise Labé, who wrote Sonnet 8, lived as a middle-class citizen in 16th century France. In this poem, she used the Petrarchan form to explain the positive and negative effects of love.

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