A Sonnet on a Tear

Not all the darkened clouds with falling rain,
And waters, shed from mountainside and hill;
Not all the spreading floods of lowland plain,
And falls, that plunge from cliffs and downward spill...

Not all the bending brooks, the sunny streams,
And restless rivers running out to sea;
Nor melting wintry snow in warming beams
And water froze, in icebergs floating free...

Not all of these, and seas and oceans full,
If poured into the hot fiery pit...
Not all these waters drawn by nature's pull,
Could drown e'en one infernal flame of it!

To douse the hopeless place that hell is in,
Needs but a tear of sorrow, wept for sin!  
                                                                                                John Riedell

      A sonnet is said to mean "a little song" in Italian (although they do use the word "canzone" for song).    It consists of fourteen lines with a definite meter and rhyme.
     The Italian sonnet is composed of an eight-line stanza (an octave) followed by a six-line one ( a sestet). The octave presents a theme or an experience, while the sestet responds to the octave. The rhyme scheme is abbaabba, then often cdecde.

     The typical English sonnet is organized with three four-line stanzas or quatrains, followed by a two-line stanza (a couplet). The rhyme scheme for the English version is abab cdcd efef gg.

     In this sonnet the author strove to write a poem with five feet to the line in the rising duple rhythm of the iambic foot in iambic pentameter. It follows the structure of the typical English sonnet.   In each quatrain the first and third lines rhyme, and the second and fourth lines rhyme. The lines of the couplet rhyme with each other.

      The first twelve lines present the problem that not all the waters on earth can extinguish hell, but the couplet says, a tear can do it.  The couplet shows the importance of repentance and mercy. While hell will still exist as an entity, sorrow can put out the fire for an individual, saving the person from it.

     During the Italian Renaissance of the 13th and 14th centuries, poets wrote sonnet sequences on the theme of love.  English poets brought back the sonnet from their travels. William Shakespeare set the standard of typical English form.   Among the great ones that John Milton wrote, was his sonnet "On His Blindness."    Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sequence of love poems to her husband, called "Sonnets from the Portuguese."   The American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was fond of this form and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for several works, which included a group of eight sonnets.


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