Sunday, January 18, 2015

How to Write a Spenserian Sonnet

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     We've already shown how to write the two most common sonnets, so here's a slightly less known one. The Spenserian sonnet was invented by Edmund Spenseras, the author of The Faerie Queene, and has a rhyme pattern of ABAB BCBC CDCD EE. Each stanza tends to show or develop a single idea. Here's an example:

Sonnet LIV

Of this World's theatre in which we stay,
My love like the Spectator idly sits,
Beholding me, that all the pageants play,
Disguising diversely my troubled wits.

Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,
And mask in mirth like to a Comedy;
Soon after when my joy to sorrow flits,
I wail and make my woes a Tragedy.

Yet she, beholding me with constant eye,
Delights not in my mirth nor rues my smart;
But when I laugh, she mocks: and when I cry
She laughs and hardens evermore her heart.

What then can move her? If nor mirth nor moan,
She is no woman, but a senseless stone.

     Can you see the individual ideas in each stanza? The first sort of sets the scene as a part of the stage. The second talks about the emotions he feels, and the third talks about how his love reacts to it. (Raises the question, why does he love her?) The last one shows his conclusion.
     This poem has a cool progressive sound due to the rhyme. This poem type doesn't have a specific meter, but the lines are about the same length. Like many poems, you could change it by having the last line of each stanza much shorter or the last two lines much shorter, or longer.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have an art contest open for submissions, see the guidelines here.


  1. That's a really interesting pattern! I read it out loud and liked the rhythm. I might try that next time I feel like doing a poem! :)

    1. You should, it's fun, plus very good practice, to use a pre-set form. Sort of like how Daniel Schwabauer talks about how rules allow creativity.