Canadian Sonnets

Included here are all of the sonnets in English from A Century of Canadian Sonnets as well as links to sonnets in Representative Poetry On-Line and transcriptions of material from the Early Canadiana website. Many thanks to Professors D. M. R. Bentley of Canadian Poetry and Ian Lancashire of Representative Poetry On-Line for their helpful websites and advice.

From A New Dimension: Notes on the Ecology of Canadian Poetry by D. M. R. Bentley

"The position has now been reached where it becomes possible to recognize that relatively enclosed and enclosing poetic forms, especially those whose traditional associations are societal, as is the case with the heroic couplet and the sonnet, have been during most of the history of writing in Canada, the forms most ecologically fitting for the 'patchwork' landscape which surrounds and includes the house, farm, village, and town. Just as the picturesque convention provided the early settlers and artists with a means of emparking the Canadian landscape, so the heroic couplet, particularly when end-stopped to invest it with what Sidney Lanier calls 'four-squareness' as in Cary's couplets describing meadows, cottages and a church in Abram's Plains, and the sonnet, particularly the Petrarchan sonnet, with its spatial division between a blocked octave and sestet, furnished Canadian poets of the 'Confederating' period and before with 'framing' or 'fencing' structures suitable to the features of the cultivated and civilized baselandscape. The ecologically fitting Petrarchan sonnets which surround the landscapes and structures of Charles G. D. Roberts' 'The Pea-Fields' and In an Old Barn thus stand in a continuity which stretches back to the heroic couplets of Mackay's Quebec Hill and Goldsmith's The Rising Village and forward well into the present century, to the vignettes of habitant life cast in sonnet form that comprise F. O. Call's Homespun volume of 1926 and to the rhymed couplets of Leo Cox's depiction of the village of 'St. Pol', Quebec."

"...[F]ixed forms such as the sonnet, which Karl Shapiro describes interestingly enough, as an "un-American activity" have appealed to some Canadian poets, including the majority of the 'Confederation' and McGill groups, because their use implied an alignment and continuity with the English and European traditions. "

From The Poet-Impressionist: Some Landscapes by Archibald Lampman by Anne Compton

"On the space framed by the sonnet form, he [Lampman] deftly and quickly strokes in the sense-data. In longer, more discursive poems such as 'The Frogs,' he is less of an impressionist. The sonnet and the short lyric were well suited to the paradox of impressionism---the arrest of the fleeting moment."

From an article by John Lesperance, c. 1885, as quoted in A Century of Canadian Sonnets

"In the restricted sphere of the sonnet our Canadian verse is specially meagre, but it happens that the little we have to offer is so very good as to compare favorably with the work of English and American Sonnetteers."

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Canadian Sonnets