Verse > Anthologies > Hunt and Lee, eds. > The Book of the Sonnet
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Hunt and Lee, comps.  The Book of the Sonnet.  1867.
 
I. Pleasant, Voluntary Prison of the Sonnet
By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
 
NUNS fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,        5
High as the highest peak of Furness Fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison unto which we doom
Ourselves no prison is; and hence to me,
In sundry moods, ’t was pastime to be bound        10
Within the sonnet’s scanty plot of ground,
Pleased if some souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found. 1
 
Note 1. It is a very bold general proposition to say that “nuns fret not at their narrow rooms” and that “hermits are content with their cells.” Thousands of nuns, there is no doubt, have fretted horribly, and do fret; and hermitages have proved so little satisfactory, that we no longer hear of their existence in civilized countries. We are to suppose, however, that the poet alludes only to such nuns and hermits as have been willing to be solitary. So also in regard to the spinning maids, and the weavers. The instances are not thoroughly happy; for the spinning and the weaving are too often anything but voluntary, however cheerfully made the best of. The rest of the sonnet is very good and pleasant, and the reflection respecting “the weight of too much liberty” admirable. [back]
 
 
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