Sonnets

Indexed in chronological order

Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets
Carmen MartA-nez BanAs/E+ Collection/Getty Images

The sonnet is a fixed poetic form, confined to 14 lines, but it has paradoxically proven to be a most flexible container for all kinds of poetic ideas. Francesco Petrarch developed the form in Italian in the 14th century, in the 16th century it travelled north, where William Shakespeare adapted it to his own rhyme-poor English language. English sonnets came to a low point in the 18th century, when Samuel Johnson defined a sonnet as “a small poem” and a sonnetteer as “a small poet, in contempt,” were revived in the 19th century by the Romantic poets, and have flowered in many contemporary variations.

Our collection of classic sonnets is arranged chronologically to reveal the evolution of the sonnet form in English.

  • William Shakespeare,
    Sonnet 18 — “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (1609)
  • William Shakespeare,
    Sonnet 29 — “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,” (1609)
  • William Shakespeare,
    Sonnet 73 — “That time of year thou mayst in me behold” (1609)
  • William Shakespeare,
    Sonnet 97 — “How like a winter hath my absence been” (1609)
  • William Shakespeare,
    Sonnet 98 — “From you have I been absent in the spring” (1609)
  • William Shakespeare,
    Sonnet 116 — “Let me not to the marriage of true minds” (1609)
  • John Donne,
    Death Be Not Proud” (from Holy Sonnets, 1633)
  • Lord Brooke Fulke Greville,
    Sonnet 100 — “In night when colors all to black are cast,” (1633)
  • John Milton,
    On His Blindness — “When I Consider How My Light is Spent” (1673)
  • John Keats,
    On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” (1817)
  • John Keats,
    The Human Seasons” (1819)
  • John Keats,
    Bright Star, Would I were Steadfast as Thou Art” (1838)
  • John Keats,
    “On the Sonnet” (1848)
  • John Keats,
    “When I have fears that I may cease to be” (1848)
  • Edgar Allan Poe,
    “An Enigma” (1848)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
    Sonnet 14 from Sonnets from the Portuguese — “If thou must love me” (1850)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
    Sonnet 21 from Sonnets from the Portuguese — “Say over again” (1850)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
    Sonnet 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese — “How do I love thee?” (1850)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
    Sonnet 44 from Sonnets from the Portuguese — “Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers” (1850)
  • Arthur Rimbaud,
    “Voyelles” (1872, “Vowels” in English trans. Oliver Bernard)
  • Christina Rossetti,
    “Remember Me” (1862)
  • Christina Rossetti,
    “Sonnets are full of love” (1881)
  • Emma Lazarus,
    “The New Colossus” (1883)
  • Amy Lowell,
    “A Fixed Idea” (1910)
  • Amy Lowell,
    “The Little Garden” (from A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, 1912)
  • Amy Lowell,
    “Storm-Racked” (from Sword Blades and Poppy Seed, 1914)
  • Rupert Brooke,
    “The Soldier” (from the sonnet sequence 1914, 1915)
  • Robert Frost,
    Mowing” (from A Boy’s Will, 1915)
  • Wilfred Owen,
    “Anthem for Doomed Youth” (1917)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    “Thou art not lovelier than lilacs,—no” (Sonnet I from Renascence and Other Poems, 1917)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    “Time does not bring relief; you all have lied” (Sonnet II from Renascence and Other Poems, 1917)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    “Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring” (Sonnet III from Renascence and Other Poems, 1917)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    Not in this chamber only at my birth” (Sonnet IV from Renascence and Other Poems, 1917)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    “If I should learn, in some quite casual way” (Sonnet V from Renascence and Other Poems, 1917)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    “Bluebeard” (Sonnet VI from Renascence and Other Poems, 1917)
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins,
    “God’s Grandeur” (1918)
  • Robert Frost,
    “The Oven Bird” (from Mountain Interval, 1920)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    I know I am but summer to your heart” (1922)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why” (1922)
  • Claude McKay,
    “My Mother” (two sonnets, 1922)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay,
    “Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare” (from The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1923)
  • Robert Frost,
    “Acquainted with the Night” (1923)
  • William Butler Yeats,
    Leda and the Swan” (1928)