Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
908. The Sonnet
 
By Richard Watson Gilder
 
 
WHAT is a sonnet? ’T is 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? ’T is the tear that fell        5
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,        10
And the clear glass where Shakespeare’s shadow falls:
A sea this is,—beware who ventureth!
For like a fiord the narrow floor is laid
Mid-ocean deep to the sheer mountain walls.
 

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