Fractal Myth

Sonnet variations - bouts-rimes

The phrase 'bouts-rimes' is French for 'rhymes without lines'.

The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (J.A.Cuddon, Penguin Books, 1991) defines bouts-rimes as "a versifying game which appears to have originated in 17th c. Paris. It became a vogue and spread to England. The idea was, given certain rhymes, to compose lines for them and make up a poem which was natural. ... The diversion remained fashionable in France, England and Scotland until the 19th century."

My own interest in bouts-rimes originated upon reading poetry by Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti composed in this manner. In particular, I was interested by the way in which Christina occasionally sent her brother a list of the end-words from one of her sonnets, for him to compose an entirely new poem which shared the same rhyming words.

I decided to follow suit, and chose a number of sonnets from various different poets and stages of literary history. I then borrowed the last word in each line in order to create some 'Frankenstein' sonnets.

A few of my sonnet variations appear below. To read the sonnet from which the rhyming words were borrowed, click on the link below each poem.

My variation on Michael Drayton - Sonnet 63 from Idea.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
Dear gentle reader, I, your pardon crave
For friendly theft of sonnets just begun.
You must not think that I ambition have
To wear the laurels poets past have won.
I pen these sonnets for my own mind's peace
To learn my craft from poems that remain;
To show that human feelings do not cease
But crystallize through poetry again.
Each poet watched the world, each in their turn
Enchanting us with snippets of their state.
Through all, we feel the fire of passion burn,
Some sing sweet songs of love and some spit hate:
While through their words and sent'ments overthrown
I find I've written sonnets all my own.

Original: Michael Drayton - Sonnet 63 from Idea

My variation on Edmund Spenser - Sonnet 37 from Amoretti.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
My lover runs his fingers through my tresses
And tells me that my locks are pure gold.
He buys me jewelled rings and satin dresses,
So that I might believe what I am told.
Perchance you all may think me rather bold
For dragging this poor man into my snare,
But when I feel his arms 'round me enfold
I find it hard to be that self aware.
My youthful friends, please do not stop and stare
To find me caught in this enchanted net.
You should not be surprised - and yet you are -
With him I never played so hard to get!
To you we're captives but to us we're free.
We hunt no more, for we true lovers be.

Original: Edmund Spenser - Sonnet 37 from Amoretti

My variation on William Shakespeare - Sonnet 65 from Sonnets.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
I dream we have a future by the sea
And dreams are said to have a hopeful power
Then add to this my ever-hopeful plea
That blessed love will bring new buds to flower.
Though even when our time is running out
There will be time to dream of hopeful days:
For faith believes in love and hope that's stout.
It conquers over all that time decays.
And every time we cry aloud, "Alack",
And every time we keep our feelings hid,
Then faith and love and hope will bring us back,
Will banish doubt and sad despair forbid.
In claiming the protection of God's might
Our gleaming dreams of love and hope shine bright.

Original: William Shakespeare - Sonnet 65 from Sonnets

My variation on William Wordsworth - The World Is Too Much With Us.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
As time flies by, this day will end too soon.
To halt the flow of time's outside our powers.
To see and to enjoy - that gift is ours.
It is sheer pride to ask for greater boon.
For, would we miss the beauty of the moon
In order to extend our daylight hours?
To never breathe the scent of evening flowers,
Or hear the crickets, owls and frogs in tune?
It seems to happy me that life would be
Less perfect if the day were not outworn.
Though day displays this pretty, sheltered lea
That night-viewed looks so lonely and forlorn,
I would not miss the star-shine on the sea...
The dawn will, far too soon, blow her bright horn!

Original: William Wordsworth - The World Is Too Much With Us

My variation on Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Sonnet 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
Being human we live by human ways,
While reaching all the time for greater height -
For hopes, dreams and goals that shine out of sight.
We pray to be worthy of God's sweet grace,
But too often we find that everyday's
Desires tempt us to turn from the light.
We kid ourselves that all we do is right,
And endlessly aim to attain men's praise.
Our God-giv'n talents we carelessly use,
To take us further from the paths of faith.
While winning for ourselves, our selves we lose.
Until the moment comes for our last breath,
And then in panic finally we choose
To plead for God's forgiveness after death.

Original: Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Sonnet 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese

My variation on Thomas Gray - Sonnet on the Death of Mr Richard West.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
Eternally bright stars above me shine
And twinkle with a universal fire.
Imagination invites me to join
With them and wear celestial attire;
Then the connection fails and I repine,
Left wondering what else I might require
To leave this earthly body I call mine,
Before the time comes when I must expire.
Such scintillating beauty brings new cheer,
A vision comforting to lonely men.
Weighed down with problems, more than we can bear.
Told to accept our fate and not complain,
We cry to stars - cold rocks which cannot hear,
And wonder why our wishes fly in vain.

Original: Thomas Gray - Sonnet on the death of Mr Richard West

My variation on Percy Bysshe Shelley - England in 1819.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
The soaring eagle of his realm is king.
He sees the source from which the rivers flow,
And celebrates the first green leaves of spring.
All small and timid furry creatures know,
That while they to their earth-bound bodies cling,
The eagle hunts above, where strong winds blow.
He sees the slightest movement in the field,
Alerting him to each potential prey.
His taloned claws are weapons he will wield,
His food and rival royalty to slay.
Environmental protection has sealed
His fate, and while the law goes unrepealed,
It seems that the majestic eagle may
Survive to hunt aloft another day.

Original: Percy Bysshe Shelley - England in 1819

My variation on Christina Rossetti - Remember.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
Dark night has come, so put your toys away,
And softly sail your soul down to dreamland.
We'll ask your guardian angel for a hand,
For only until morning may you stay.
You must come back to sieze the brand new day,
Fulfill the hopeful dreams that we have planned,
To live, to grow, to learn, to understand.
It's for your happy future that I pray.
Although I let you wander for a while,
If you did not return my soul would grieve.
Each night before you close your eyes and leave,
Thank God for all the blessings you have had~
Then I will dream we meet again and smile,
Dispelling nightmare fears which make me sad.

Original: Christina Rossetti - Remember

My variation on John Donne - Sonnet 18 from Holy Sonnets.

[Michelle Chapman ©2002]
The summer blue sky domed crystal and clear,
And foaming, frothy waves danced on the shore.
A running dog across the white sand tore,
Nose glued to ground, tracking from there to here,
And back again. The beach changes each year
As wind and water ancient cliffs outwore,
Reducing rocks to sand which evermore
The waves will wash. With time, new cliffs appear,
Rising above the sea like strong brave knights
Intent on winning a fair maiden's love.
The salt spray shines with strange enchanting sights,
Imbues with rainbow hues the peaceful dove.
I marvel at these magic scenes, and then
I turn from them to face the world of men.

Original: John Donne - Sonnet 18 from Holy Sonnets

My variation on John Keats - On the Sea.

[Michelle Whitehead ©2006]
He clings to wreckage, water all around,
Hopes just to hold his head above the swell.
Lulled by the ocean's sibilant salt spell,
(The whispering waves' sweet, seductive sound)
He drifting floats, until at last he's found
By mermaids wearing necklaces of shell.
In their cold arms' embrace, deeply he fell
Borne down in tangled tresses worn unbound.
Closing his eyes, admitting he is tired
He slips beneath the surface of the sea,
Sinking to snooze on sand-beds, rough and rude,
Sedately soothed by marine melody.
He, for whom mortal maidens moan and brood,
Sleeps strangely now, by silent voices choired.

Original: John Keats - On the Sea

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5  License God bless! God bless!