Two Romantic Sonnets On The Creative Life

The only poetry that’s ever truly enchanted me happens to be from the Romantic Period in literature, which originated in Europe at the end of the 18th century. It was all about introspective feeling, melancholy and yearning, sensing, aspiring for the sublime, the irrational and the supernatural, and the power and wonder of the natural world. Poets like Wordsworth, Keats, Coleridge, Bryon, Blake and Shelley all made their mark during this time.

Here are the core characteristics of romantic poetry :

An emphasis on emotional and imaginative spontaneity

The importance of self-expression and individual feeling – the ‘I’ is central

An almost religious response to nature – God is in nature

A capacity for wonder and consequently a reverence for the freshness and innocence of the vision of childhood

Emphasis on the imagination as a positive and creative faculty

An interest in earlier forms of art such as from the Medieval Period as well as Ancient Greece and Rome

An interest in and concern for the ‘outcasts of society’: tramps, beggars, obsessive characters and the poor

The idea of the poet as a visionary figure

(If you are interested in reading more about it, here is a nice link)

Now the sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines using any of a number of formal rhyme schemes, in English typically having ten syllables per line. But most people probably recognise the Shakespearean form best, with its rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg, comprising of 3 quatrains (of 4 lines each) and a rhyming couplet to finish. Its rhythm is that of iambic pentameter. Iambic a two syllable sound, meant to echo the lub dub of the human heart beat, with the softer stress on the first beat, the lub, and the harder on the second beat, the dub. So the sonnet has long been used to express deep feeling that comes from the heart, and was thereby a perfect lyrical form for Romantic poets.

When I was doing my writing course, much to my consternation, poetry was included, so I found myself having to engage with poems and to actually write some. I tolerated it to start with, but then became more tuned into it – at least for a while. So I have a sonnet for you which I wrote about creative yearning in the style of a romantic poem – at least that’s what I told myself ;>) I haven’t shared this with anyone until now, because I don’t particularly like the sentiments expressed towards the end. However they are sentiments which all creative people, including myself, will probably have had at some stage in our lives, more youthful fancies, shall we say, about our creative life, until we wise up to the realities or reconsider our values!

So here goes!

An Artist’s Room

A warm and glowing shrine of yellows, greens,
With highlights of pinks, cushions and quilts,
While by the window shift the seasonal scenes,
With me contained composing lyric lilts.
A room of many colours, many beings,
Where I have studied, sifting through the hours,
Where I have slept through many fleeting dreams,
Secluded in my private floral bower.
Where works I’ve painted long since filled the cupboards,
Where aspirations long since lined the walls,
An artists’ life I live, so I chase bluebirds,
To guide me to success in hallowed halls.
And though I’m often tempted to despair,
My room will always listen to my prayer.

And interestingly, this creative yearning is highly prominent in a Shakespearean sonnet from John Keats (1795-1821), written in 1818, which struck me with some force years before I really put pen to paper myself. Keats had already witnessed the suffering of his mother and his brother, Tom, who both died of tuberculosis, before succumbing  to it later himself. In this sonnet he reflects on his own death, knowing that he will die before he is able to express in his poetry all that he holds within him, or in other words, before he can fulfil his creative potential.

When I have fears that I may cease to be

 When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

 Keats is frightened of dying before he has gathered the harvest of his busy thinking and feeling mind and expressed all of it within his writing. The full ripened grain may allude to his life works, as represented by the pile of books. He despairs that he will never see the beauty of the world or experience love from that ‘fair creature of an hour’ a beautiful woman who he has known for only a short time. Both love and fame will elude him. But in the end he recognises that we all face death alone, and that  love and fame become essentially meaningless. He is the classic young ‘genius artist’ who dies tragically young, and I suppose the irony has to be that he did happen to become posthumously famous for all the work he managed to produce within his three years of creative writing.

I love this sonnet because it put the creative life into perspective, but at the same time it highlights how important it is to do your creative  work and bring forth what is within you, and while there is no comparison in quality between my sonnet and Keats’s, there is still that sense of keeping your creativity going for as long as you can – and that is all that really matters…

So as the nights draw in and the darkness of winter begins to enfold us, we have a special place to go to that sustains us – and that is our creative life.

Happy creating all!





About lynnefisher

Writer and visual artist living in Scotland, INFJ type Writer's blog: Art: Twitter @writeartblog Writers page Facebook Artists page Facebook
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12 Responses to Two Romantic Sonnets On The Creative Life

  1. galenpearl says:

    Beautifully said, in prose and poetry. I smiled about your description of your relationship with poetry. Me too. And yet we both write it, or have written it. Go figure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Indeed, Galen! Must admit I like some rhyming though!

      Liked by 1 person

    • A.P. says:

      I’ve never identified much with poetry. Around 2005 I joined a poetry group. I enjoyed the experience for the most part, but (not to stereotype) I found some of the people pretentious. A lot of pseudo-artists. People with an artistic bent, but not specific talent. It seemed the easiest thing for them to do was to “identify” as poets, spash a bunch of words together once in a while, and thereby gain admission into the world of Art and Artists. The writing of plays, novels, and short stories is a bit more challenging than that, in my (maybe not so humble) opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A.P. says:

    Funny, at some point in the 90’s I recall wanting to write a number of sonnets, due to an experience I was having with unrequited love. I only wrote three of them, however. I don’t remember them at all, except for that the third one, the one I wrote quickest was the best. I remember its first and last lines: “How dare you treat my heart the way you do!” (As you can see, iambic pentameter.)

    I recall that three of the lines started with “How dare you.” Then, Tthe last line followed ” ? ? ? ? and you shall never see / not head nor tail nor hide nor hair of me.” I remember writing it rapidly while angry. The first two, the ones I belabored, were not quite as effective.

    Maybe now would be a good time to write more sonnets? It might be a good way of channeling my current relational angst.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      They must have been passionate sonnets, Andy – but an ideal form to choose for unrequited love. I wrote some poems (awful ones, I must say) when I separated from my hubby many years ago, early on in our relationship – more yearning and questioning themes. I didn’t consider myself a writer, but simply wanted to express what I was feeling…so there must be something in using poetry in this way to process difficult times in our lives. So, yes, you might as well give it a go for your current angst…it just might help :>)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A.P. says:

    Indeed. Odd, though — I can’t for the life of me remember exactly to whom the unrequited love was directed. It wasn’t J. – I’m pretty sure it was one of two piano players who were making the circuit along with me in those days. A lot of strange crushing going on among neurotic musicians on the beat.

    I’m a bit batty from lack o’ sleep. Naturally, to hammer out Sonnet One over some sleepytime tea is the correct course of action, wouldn’t you say? Cheerio –

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Yes, indeed, Andy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • A.P. says:

        Actually I waited till morning. I figure the faster I write it, and the more spontaneously, the better. They don’t have to be *good* – they just have to channel the angst. For the first one, I used the “how dare you” model, though starting from scratch. Here’s the first one:

        How dare you treat my heart the way you do!
        The guilt that you induce is so complete.
        It seems I am a fool, and you a shrew
        Whose arrogance is far beyond effete.
        I sprawl and squirm and beg for you to stop,
        While on your callous face there beams a grin.
        How dare you spin my spirit like a top,
        And spurriously chuckle as I spin.
        And as I beg for mercy, you rejoice!
        How dare you deify yourself as such!
        If only you could hear in your own voice
        The clanging, cackling clamor of your clutch
        As you in grabbing me across the waist
        Now paralyze the soul that you’ve disgraced.

        By the way, it wasn’t *that* bad. But it sure felt that way. It’s like I always say, there are two types of people in this world: the ones who are good at feeling guilty, and the ones who are good at making them feel that way. Cheers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lynnefisher says:

        Strong stuff! But a good expressive sonnet it surely is…thank you for giving the post some wonderful real life application in this way!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A.P. says:

    No, thank *you*! Not a problem. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the Romantic poets, especially Keats and Shelley. I feel a real connection with them and the way they saw the world. I can relate to the sentiment in your poem too.

    Liked by 1 person

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