Verse > Anthologies > Higginson and Bigelow, eds. > American Sonnets
Higginson and Bigelow, comps.  American Sonnets.  1891.
The Sonnet
By Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909)
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 fjord the narrow floor is laid
  Mid-ocean deep to the sheer mountain walls.

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