Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Century Sonnets

William Drummond (1585-1649), known as the "Scottish Petrarch" wrote many sonnets inspired by the tragic death of his fiancee on the eve of their wedding. Lady Mary Wroth (c.1586-1640), niece of Philip Sidney, wrote a sequence of 83 sonnets and 19 songs that was included in her one published work, Urania.

John Donne (c.1572-1631) had little patience for the conventions of secular love; he wrote with equal passion of romantic love and religious faith and employed the sonnet accordingly, with intensity and wit. Donne's contemporary Ben Jonson (c.1572-1637) influenced a different set of poets, including Robert Herrick (1591-1674). The religious sonnets of George Herbert (1593-1633), like those of Donne, come as a refreshing break from Elizabethan convention and subject matter. John Milton (1608-1674) presents a striking contrast to most earlier sonneteers; his often complex sentences challenge the English sonnet's traditional structure of three quatrains capped by a couplet.

The early eighteenth century saw a decline in the sonnet's popularity, but there were the odd successes and attempts by poets who did not use the sonnet often.

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