Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
The Sonnet
 
John Addington Symonds (1840–93)
 
 
I
THE SONNET is a fruit which long hath slept
And ripen’d on life’s sun-warm’d orchard-wall;
A gem which, hardening in the mystical
Mine of man’s heart, to quenchless flame hath leapt;
A medal of pure gold art’s nympholept        5
Stamps with love’s lips and brows imperial;
A branch from memory’s briar, whereon the fall
Of thought-eternalizing tears hath wept:
A star that shoots athwart star-steadfast heaven;
A fluttering aigrette of toss’d passion’s brine;        10
A leaf from youth’s immortal missal torn;
A bark across dark seas of anguish driven;
A feather dropp’d from breast-wings aquiline;
A silvery dream shunning red lips of morn.
 
II
There is no mood, no heart-throb fugitive,
        15
No spark from man’s imperishable mind,
No moment of man’s will, that may not find
Form in the Sonnet; and thenceforward live
A potent elf, by art’s imperative
Magic to crystal spheres of song confin’d:        20
As in the moonstone’s orb pent spirits wind
’Mid dungeon depths day-beams they take and give.
Spare thou no pains; carve thought’s pure diamond
With fourteen facets, scattering fire and light:—
Uncut, what jewel burns but darkly bright?        25
And Prospero vainly waves his runic wand,
If spurning art’s inexorable law
In Ariel’s prison-sphere he leave one flaw.
 
III
The Sonnet is a world, where feelings caught
In webs of phantasy, combine and fuse        30
Their kindred elements ’neath mystic dews
Shed from the ether round man’s dwelling wrought;
Distilling heart’s content, star-fragrance fraught
With influences from the breathing fires
Of heaven in everlasting endless gyres        35
Enfolding and encircling orbs of thought.
Our Sonnet’s world hath two fix’d hemispheres:
This, where the sun with fierce strength masculine
Pours his keen rays and bids the noonday shine;
That, where the moon and the stars, concordant powers,        40
Shed milder rays, and daylight disappears
In low melodious music of still hours.
 

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