Further reading

Spanos, Margaret. "The Sestina: An Exploration of the Dynamics of Poetic Structure." Speculum 53, no. 3 (1978): 545-557.

Carol E. Harding

"SET ME WHEREAS THE SONNE DOTH PERCHE THE GRENE" Henry Howard, earl of Surrey (1557) A translation of Petrarch's Rime 145, this sonnet by Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, was included in Tottel's Miscellany in 1557. Surrey finesses the poem, however, into a new form of his own creation, subsequently called the English sonnet. While Surrey certainly had Petrarch's sonnet before him, it is likely that he was also familiar with Petrarch's principal Latin source for his poem, Horace's Ode 1.22, and he is largely faithful to both sources.

The poem's overall effect is contrast and balance, which Surrey achieves through a range of situational antitheses. The pattern of the poem advances this concept quatrain by quatrain, as each begins with "Set me" and builds to the final couplet in a way that ultimately effaces landscape altogether and emphasizes the relationship of the lover with the beloved. But this pattern, which George Puttenham, author of the Art of Poesy, calls merismus or amplificatio (amplification), is made still more subtle in Surrey's hands. Within the technical structure of the sonnet form, Surrey's poem further retains metrical elements of accentual verse, incorporating CAESURAe—or midline pauses—that further highlight the antitheses Surrey presents. Thus, the poem's frequent pauses, marked by commas in lines 3-13, isolate dis crete phrasal units that balance one another. Scholars have also noted that in striking such a balance, Surrey appears to make use of the marriage ceremony of the Roman Catholic Church—which would have been used in Surrey's own wedding in 1532—whose English vows were inserted in an otherwise Latin service: "I N. take the[e] N. to my weded wife to haue and to hold from this day forwarde for bettere for wers for richere for pouerer: in sykeness and in hel[th]e tyl dethe vs departe . . ." Drawing on these contrasts, Surrey successfully maintains that geography, condition, and circumstance are ultimately irrelevant in the affairs of the heart: what matters most is simply the individual freedom to love.

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