Sonnet II: Sleep and Death

And yet, thou, quiet at my side, asleep
Hast thus me graced.  Thine own sweet breath,
Thy fairest face so still, but not as death,
As once I thought the only link to keep

Us ever joined would be.   So dark, so deep
Would be our misery; our fate, beneath
A cruel, unblinking sky, would us bequeath,
Or God should grace us, but to weep;

For dreams forsaken, squandered; and to those
From which we shrank, unbidden, with resolve,
With fear, or anger; yet our lives revolve
Around the one, and only one, we chose.

Though only death was certain, dearest wife,
‘Tis better still that it began with life.

This sonnet is part of a short sequence; click here to read it all:


12 responses to “Sonnet II: Sleep and Death

  1. So achingly beautiful…

    Did I not already know you also composed fugues I would suspect it. The interplay of the rhythm and the sounds of the words you choose is just wonderful! So very like your musical composition sometimes, my dear. I really hear it in this piece.


  2. Liked the lines pretty much
    “Thy fairest face, so still, but not as death,
    As once I thought the only link to keep”.
    So here the rhyming is ABBA CDDC EFFE…is it correct?
    You’ve got gr8 technical knowledge of sonnets. You are really good writer.


    • Thank you, and you are close:

      This is a modified Italian/Petrarchan

      Normally ABBA ABBA ….(the last six lines vary)

      But since here ‘bequeath’ and ‘beneath’ do not truly rhyme with ‘breath’ and ‘death’ we have:


      Another way to notate these is to divide the rhymes into two classes:

      Ephemeral: Rhymes used only once, or only in one verse or quatrain (group of up to four lines)


      Perpetual: Rhymes that carry through farther than that or are used throughout the whole piece.

      Then we may use numbers for perpetual rhymes and letters for ephemeral. More about this here:

      So the above would become:

      1AA1 1BB1 CDCD EE

      And a typical Italian would be:

      1221, 1221, ABABAB (or ABAB CC, or ABCABC, or whatever the last six lines might be.

      And thank you again!


    • Also, traditionally, although I may or may not have mentioned this, sonnets have been written in 14 lines ungrouped–one line after another without any breaks, or groupings. I simply feel as though it makes them easier to parse and read–particularly if read aloud, if they are so grouped.


    • Also, although this is not traditional, and I have never seen it done elsewhere, I do like to insert internal rhymes and/or rhymes that occur somewhere in the centre of adjacent lines. So in the case of your favourite lines above:

      Thy fairest face, so still, but not as death,
      As once I thought the only link to keep
      Us ever joined would be.

      The sentence actually ends in the midst of the fifth line. And to some reckoning, the second quatrain really begins with the words “So dark.” Then in the next line there is the word “misery” which rhymes with “be.”

      The same thing occurs in the first quatrain, (graced/face) not a pure rhyme, but still the sound is there. And in the third quatrain, (shrank/anger) not rhymes at all, and ‘anger’ is not a full stop. This type of pairing is called “Assonance,” which means vowel sounds matching. Plus in this example you will see I used “Consonance” also, which is using the same “hard” sounds or consonants. Particularly here, when using the first letters of each word particularly, this subclass of consonance is called “Alliteration:” As in the last line (better/began) (death/dearest) &c. I tend to do that without thinking in the first draft. Those, I like to mix up a bit, so that the piece doesn’t sound too regular.


    • It is all because a scientist fell in love with a fascinating and beautiful humanities enthusiast. I had to understand her world, so I started with poetry, because it seemed the simplest, shortest way into this world. Almost immediately, I fell in love with sonnet form and started writing them a few days into my study of poetry. Apart from that, I didn’t study all that hard. But my other secret is that I am very very old! so I have had a long time to think about what I know and pick up things here and there. Also, this project of writing a sonnet every day didn’t hurt either : )


    • You are quite welcome, however,… however; I should quite categorically state that while I do love poetry and particularly sonnets, and especially my sweetheart who led me to explore these things; and while I am certainly enthusiastic about whatever technique I might be studying, or employing, or about which I might be musing; and although I am quite willing to share what I suppose, or have learned, or might be mucking about with, this hardly qualifies me as an expert on any of these things. Enthusiast, yes. Expert, most definitely not.

      I have met true experts and/or corresponded with them, and I well, know, because of this–as I would know in any case, that I am little more than an enthusiast.

      Still, my science background tends to make me appear more systematic, perhaps. Even in this, I am much more lazy and much less diligent and much less single minded a man than would be willing ready, or able to become an expert in anything.


  3. My god, David. You are simply amazing.

    I am not really into poetry or sonnets, but i was attracted to your words and I havent since stopped reading your posts. I derive meanings myself and am sure I am mostly wrong, but I still like them the way I interpret them. Wish you continued happiness.



    • You are most kind; and as in my previous answer, feel free to interpret these sonnets as you will. Some, as you will see, if you have time to browse, are much more clear than others. But they are mostly about love although sometimes indirectly. Sometimes about friendship. And occasionally contain good old, Old Testament style wrath : )


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