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who wrote the greatest sonnets?


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David W. Parsley

1. John Keats

2. William Shakespeare

3. Gerard Manley Hopkins

4. William Wordsworth

5. Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Apologies to Maria Rainier Rilke, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edmund Spenser, Rupert Brooke, Christina Rossetti, myself, and others... ;-)

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David W. Parsley

So it begins... :-8)


1. Granted Keats did not have time to fully "glean [his] teeming brain," he nevertheless composed what could be considered the three greatest sonnets of all time:

  • Bright Star!
  • On First Looking into Chapman's Homer
  • When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be

2. Shakespeare wrote the next dozen or so greatest sonnets of all time. But he also wrote turkeys (e.g. for his horse, 55) and schlock for his sponsors. Dilutes the greatness factor for me.

3. In addition to the devastating Terrible Sonnets, Hopkins gives us

  • The Windhover
  • God's Grandeur
  • Felix Randall
  • etc

Check. (your move)

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Larsen M. Callirhoe

i think shakesphere is the best. i am young, and not versed enough to name five. maybe keats then wordsworth. i'm not into sonnets though myself. i like free style much like sandburg or even ???// not sure LOL...

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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I'm with David on Keat's Bright Star but don't leave out Frost.... This is one of my favorite sonnets . . .


Acquainted with the Night


I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain--and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light


I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.


I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,


But not to call me back or say good-by;

and further still at an unearthly height

One luminary clock against the sky


Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

----- Robert Frost 1874-1963

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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I'm with Dave and Tink on Keats and Frost, and Hopkins did write some "terrible" ones ("I wake and feel the fell of dark not day" being a personal favorite of mine), but I tend to look at each of their works individually rather than as a whole. Maybe a better question would be "What are the top ten or twenty sonnets of all time?" "Bright Star" and "Acquainted with the Night" are certainly heavy hitters. Another one to add to the list would be Shelley's "Ozymandias." That said, sonnets are a personal pleasure for me, and the ones that strike me the hardest do not necessarily come to the minds of most people when a discussion about the "greatest" comes up. The ones I love the most are more of the "contemporary classic" variety with "The Astronomers of Mont Blanc" and "#10 from Autumn Shade" by Edgar Bowers; "Friday Night in the Royal Station Hotel" by Philip Larkin; and "From Sonnets, Second Series, XVI" by Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, an often underrated poet (not so contemporary), being near the top of my list.

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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this is magnificent-





Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,

Crooked elipses 'gainst his glory fight,

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth

And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:

And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

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David W. Parsley

I also prefer a ranking of the poems themselves. Shelley and Yeats are both one-hit wonders with "Ozymandias" and "Leda and the Swan", which would probably make any top twenty list. The Frost find was new to me - terrific! Looking forward to examining Tony's recommendations next weekend.


Good one just posted by Eclipse!

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  • 4 weeks later...
Larsen M. Callirhoe

i love leda and the swan maybe my favorit sonnet. i am not versed enough in the sonnet. i prefer free style though the cadance of sonnets is something beautiful.

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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