Daily Archives: 3 December 2011

Harpur on the sonnet by way of Middlemiss

Perry Middlemiss often blogs Australian newspaper articles from decades past on literary subjects. He recently treated us to a  essay on the sonnet by Charles Harpur, originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1866, which I found fascinating for reasons that might be obvious. Here’s a sample:

the untransgressible limits of the sonnet often tend to induce that closeness of expression, and that sublimation of imagery which are proper to the highest kind of enduring poetry, namely, that kind which is suggestive rather than descriptive, or which by a few select images, intensified in the putting, suggests infinitely more than could be circumstantially described, or otherwise than wearisomely; and which, therefore, while it amply recompenses the imagination of the reader, exercises it as well, and thereby quickens and strengthens it for direct conception upon its own account, or as an individual and self-sustained faculty. And, having, as I think, this tendency, of course these exact limits prevent in an equal degree that verbal delusion of the sense which is the besetting weakness of most modern writers, both in a verse and prose.