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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Sonnet

By Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909)

WHAT is a sonnet? ’Tis the pearly shell

That murmurs of the far-off murmuring sea;

A precious jewel carved most curiously;

It is a little picture painted well.

What is a sonnet? ’Tis the tear that fell

From a great poet’s hidden ecstasy;

A two-edged sword, a star, a song—ah me!

Sometimes a heavy-tolling funeral bell.

This was the flame that shook with Dante’s breath;

The solemn organ whereon Milton played,

And the clear glass where Shakespeare’s shadow falls:

A sea this is—beware who ventureth!

For like a fjord the narrow floor is laid

Mid-ocean deep to the sheer mountain walls.