With This Key Shakespeare Unlocked His Heart


“Scorn Not the Sonnet; Critic, You Have Frowned” by William Wordsworth

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch’s wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
With it Camöens soothed an exile’s grief;
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faery-land
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
Soul-animating strains—alas, too few!

Today is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, so I wanted to post something in honor of the writer who has inspired so many throughout the years. Rather than post my thoughts on one of Shakespeare’s works, I decided to share this sonnet by Wordsworth.

In this sonnet, Wordsworth defends the poetic form of the sonnet against attacks from critics. It seems that even back then, artists hated critics. Anyway, Wordsworth provides examples of poets who used the sonnet as a vehicle to express themselves, and as such it is not surprising that Shakespeare is first among those mentioned.

Shakespeare wrote a total of 154 sonnets, and they express emotion in such a way that 400 years after his death, we still connect with his words. The cadence and rhythm resonate with our deeper selves, and each sonnet is nothing short of a perfect fourteen-line view into the heart of Shakespeare.


Filed under Literature

6 responses to “With This Key Shakespeare Unlocked His Heart

  1. To me, the greatest genius that has ever lived. I did not know that poem – it really praises the Swan adequately.

  2. I’m not really a literary person so am going a bit out on a limb here, but I see the difference between Wordsworth and Shakespeare as one of “very good educated lad” to “untutored genius.” Wordsworth had money and went to Cambridge, I believe. Shakespeare came from more humble roots. While Shakespeare did make it, big time, in his day, I don’t think he ever lost whatever it is that separates him from, imo, all the others.

    Same kind of dynamic can be found say, with the Beatles. “Common” lads loaded with whatever it is that makes art not just extremely good, but exceptional.

    • Yeah, they may have come from different backgrounds, but I think artistic expression does not adhere to those distinctions. Who’s to say where creativity comes from. The muse speaks to you or she doesn’t. Anyway, thanks as always for the thoughtful comment. It’s always good to hear your thoughts. Cheers!

      • Yeah, you’ve got a good point. I’m sure there are many well-heeled geniuses as well. I suppose I like the traditional “rags to riches” story. Often overlooked, however, is the “noble gentleman” or “lady” story. Not all of the privileged become famous. The ones who do have something special, I guess.