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coastiegirl96's avatar

How do you analyze a sonnet?

Asked by coastiegirl96 (630 points ) March 26th, 2012

To the Evening Star is a sonnet and we need to analyze it by comparing the form of the poem and the meaning. Any help would be nice, please!

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33 Answers

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
flutherother's avatar

Oddly enough a similar question was asked here before though the answers don’t look too helpful. You could try here but you will have to read it, use your imagination and come up with some of your own ideas.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You would look at it’s structure and it’s rhythm.

coastiegirl96's avatar

@CaptainHarley Thank you, haha.
@flutherother Whoa. Yeah, weird. I’ll read it. I just don’t understand what they are saying. If they had a modern translation that would be nice.
@Adirondackwannabe I really don’t understand the “rhythm” of a poem.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@coastiegirl96 Read it out loud and see how it flows and how the individual words “feed” in to the next word.

coastiegirl96's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I can’t. My mom’s sitting right next to me and her TV show is on.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@coastiegirl96 Your education is more important than a TV show. Read it quietly.

coastiegirl96's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Kay. I still don’t get it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Look at the pattern of which syllable is accented. I’m not trying to be obtuse. I want to help you learn the style.

coastiegirl96's avatar

@flutherother I went to the site. I don’t think my school would approve of me saying it has to do with sex. And I personally don’t understand the poem enough to say it is.
@Adirondackwannabe I don’t understand what you mean. Ugh. I’m really sorry. I’m more of a visual learner… /:

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@coastiegirl96 That’s ok. Take your time. I haven’t read that poem in a little while. Let me refresh my memory.

coastiegirl96's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Okay. Here it is:

To The Evening Star by William Blake

Thou fair-hair’d angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
The bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And then the lion glares through the dun forest;
The fleeces of our flocks are cover’d with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence!

Earthgirl's avatar

You need to analyze the rhyme scheme, meter, theme, etc. Did your teacher cover these elements? If so you need to review what each of these things are, understand them and apply them one by one to the poem. Think of the overall meaning and mood of the poem also and write about that. There is so much help for this assignment on the internet. If you need to define the term couplet for example or meter,you caan find explanations and examples. Look at Dummies.com writing a sonnet. There are many more good sites but I cannot send links from my phone! Google it!!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

It’s beautiful isn’t it? There are different types or styles of sonnets based on how the words flow together and if they rhyme or not. Think of who else wrote a lot of these.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@coastiegirl96 Did that help any. His first name was William.

coastiegirl96's avatar

@Earthgirl I clicked on the site.. it wasn’t anything. And my mom yelled at me for being “off topic” (I’m in online schooling) Soo… D:

coastiegirl96's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Yeah, Shakespeare, I know. Doesn’t help me understand it any more than I already did. ): Ha. That IS funny though, 2 Williams. Lol.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
SmashTheState's avatar

“To point at the moon a finger is needed, but woe to those who take the finger for the moon.”D.T. Suzuki

This is the second time in as many days you’ve come to us with problem involving your English studies, which tells me it’s probably time for you to back up and refactor your analysis of what is being asked.

There are two entirely separate problems here, which you have mistaken for there being a single problem. They are as follows:

(1) What am I being asked to do, and why?

and

(2) What is the significance of this sonnet?

Your teacher, whoever he or she is, is concerned solely with your response to #1. However, it’s important for you to realize that most people who teach English got there as a result of their obsession with #2. They therefore, unintentionally, destroy any interest you might have had in #2 in your effort to deal with #1. They will train you very well in how to regurgitate a series of words without any real understanding of what it is that you’re writing. They will mistake this for understanding because they are stupid, and because they have failed to understand that the real purpose of school is teaching you to conform through the rote regurgitation of information on command.

So, the first thing you need to do before you can answer this question (or any other posed to you in school) is whether in fact you have any interest in #2. Because if you do, it will make it harder to deal with #1. If your only interest is in satisfying the demands of your assignment, don’t worry about the sonnet. Find a few essays on sonnets, get a feel for the wording, and regurgitate it at your teacher. Make sure to use the specific words and phrases your teacher uses in your answer, because that’s what he or she is looking for.

On the other hand, if you actually have any interest in understanding the sonnet (or any other part of English literature), I implore you to forget everything they’re teaching you in school. Their ruthless vivisection of prose and poetry does more to make people hate language than anything this side of Fox News. How does this poem make you feel? Don’t let anyone tell you what is “classic” and what is not. This poem, for example, strikes me as being trite and sentimentalist. I’m more of a Percy Shelley or Dorothy Parker man; I like my poetry with a thick slather of bitter, curdled disappointment and cynicism. You do not need to like this particular poem, and if you don’t, feel free to simply reflect back your teacher’s expectations without worrying about whether or not you’ve grokked the poet.

But please, regardless of how you decide to answer, do your own explorations and find out what sort of prose and verse you like. Then keep it safely hidden inside your head, where they can’t flay off its skin in dabble their thick sausage fingers in its innards.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am not much at analyzing poems, but in this case I would concentrate on the imagery, which is most abundant. There is a description of of a part of nature that is going to sleep as the stars come out. There is an innocence to the smiles and flowers shutting their “sweet eyes.” Notice how jarring are the sound of the words “rage” and “glare” along with the scary image of wolf and lion. Yet it all seems very dreamlike. This is no real forest. Wolves and lions do not occupy the same places. It seems to me that Blake is trying to capture the process of falling asleep.

coastiegirl96's avatar

@SmashTheState Yes, but I don’t know how to paraphrase a thing he’s saying. Shakespeare’s easy, this is really confusing though. That’s what I need help with, is the paraphrasing of each quatrain and the couplet. If anyone can help with that, that’s all I need to analyze it.

Jeruba's avatar

My paraphrasing of it won’t do you any good. The point is for you to do it.

So here’s one approach. Take a look at whole sentences. When you work your way through the descriptive language and get down to nouns and verbs, what does it say? Who is “thou” (“you”), and what is the speaker saying in addressing that entity? Just put that into ordinary language, using your own words, and you will have a paraphrase.

coastiegirl96's avatar

@Earthgirl The first link didn’t work, but I clicked on the rest, and thank you so much!
@Jeruba Thank you, that actually helped a lot.
You all are AMAZING. :D Just the fact that you’re looking at this, thank you so much.

Earthgirl's avatar

Your welcome!. Keep us posted on you progress later if you have time. Good luck

coastiegirl96's avatar

@Earthgirl Sounds good! (: Thank you!

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coastiegirl96's avatar

@WittyGopher Thanks! Welcome to Fluther! (: I’m a newbie as well :D

coastiegirl96's avatar

This is what I ended up submitting:

Did you know that there is a person called a “Shepherd” that herds sheep? Shepherds were quite common in biblical times and are more popular in farm areas like Ireland now. William Blake’s poem “To the Evening Star” is about a shepherd begging for protection over his sheep. He describes the terrors of the night, and asks for his sheep to be protected from them. At first, this poem seems to be about some angel and love. But, if you look into it it’s really about protection and the “angel” is the star.
Blake’s poem is a sonnet. It has fourteen lines with three quatrains and one couplet. The first quatrain is referring to the evening star, personifying it into an angel. It addresses the brightness of the star, with the words “bright torch of love,” “radiant crown,” “glimmering eyes,” and “the dusk with silver.” The second quatrain is talking about his cry for protection. He talks about every little thing that he wants to happen so they’re protected. In the third quatrain he’s talking about the star and the night, he’s personifying it. His use of metaphor and personification is easily seen through his description of the night being a wolf and the day being a lion. Finally, the couplet ends it by tying it all together, with his last cry of protection over his “flocks.”
The three quatrains describe the star and its actions, and what he is crying out for help for. It also describes how he wants it to help him and where. It describes each piece of nature, terrors and all. It tells how they will hurt him and his flock. It describes the beauty and luminosity of the star. In lines one and two he lets us know that the aforementioned angel is the evening star. In lines three and four he describes the star as a “bright torch of love” and a “radiant crown.” Then, he describes the night, by calling it “our evening bed.” In lines five and six he talks about the sky turning to night. In lines seven and eight he describes nature and the elements shutting down, and calming down. The west wind “sleep on” and calms down throughout the night. The flowers are personified by “shuts its sweet eyes.” That means the night comes, and they… sleep. Everything shuts down that was on and active and awake during the day. In lines nine and ten it talks of the water quietly sitting there with the star shining over it, and reflecting it. Then, he speaks of the night “wash(ing)” away the dusk. In lines eleven and twelve he finally speaks of the night. The world can be interpreted as the night, and also as a terror to his sheep. The lion can be interpreted as day, or another terror to the sheep that he wants them protected from. Finally, the couplet; lines thirteen and fourteen are his last cry of prayer. He refers to his sheep as “fleeces of flocks.”
This poem has many things; symbolism, personification, imagery, a boatload of poetic devices. This poem can mean many different things to many different people. To me, it’s a shepherd’s cry for help and protection. You make it into what you want it to be. Poetry is poetry. It can hurt us, bore us, or gratify us. Either way, however you put it; it does create some emotion from you. Which; is the magic of it. So, enjoy it. Enjoy trying to figure out these wonderful cries of help, tears of agony, and leaps for joy. I know I have.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@coastiegirl96 Holy shit. Nice job. :)

Earthgirl's avatar

coastiegirl96 Very impressive! See what you can do when you put your mind to it!? I don’t believe I could have done better myself. You really have an ability to read between the lines. Great job!

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