‘‘A sonnet is a moment’s monument,’’ said Dante Gabriel Rossetti in a sonnet about sonnets. The sonnets in this collection – whether they capture moments of perception, recognition, despair or celebration – reveal how great an amount of feeling, insight and experience can be concentrated into a mere fourteen lines. Here are classics such as Milton’s ‘‘On His Blindness’’, Yeats’s ‘‘Leda and the Swan’’ and Frost’s ‘‘The Oven Bird’’, juxtaposed with the mischievous wit of Rupert Brooke’s ‘‘Sonnet Reversed’’, the lyric defiance of Mona Van Duyn’s ‘‘Caring for Surfaces’’ and the comic poignancy of Philip Larkin’s ‘‘To Failure’’.
From the lovelorn laments of Dante and Petrarch to the artful heights of Sidney, Spenser and Shakespeare, from the masterpieces of Wordsworth and Keats to the innovations of Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens and James Merrill, the sonnet has proved both versatile and enduring. This delightful anthology displays the incredible range and power of the verse form that has inspired poets across the centuries.