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Lord Byron: Sonnet On Chillon (A Formalist Explication)

596 words - 2 pages

This poem dramatizes the conflict between liberty and tyranny, specifically in instances where tyrannical forces attempt to squelch liberty by imprisoning those who champion her virtues. The speaker presents a paradox in the beginning of the poem, “Eternal Spirit of the chainless mind!/Brightest in dungeons, Liberty, thou art,--For there thy habitation is the heart,--” (1,2,3). The speaker personifies liberty and explains the paradox as the poem continues. Liberty is described as a living woman whose “sons” (5) are “consigned, to...dayless gloom” (5/6). In this gloom however, “love of thee alone can bind” (4). The speaker creates a long metaphor in which to win, tyranny must make men turn their hearts against their mother.Sonnet on Chillon is an Italian Sonnet. This form is important because conflict is settled at the end of the octet. After setting up the conflict and paradox, and presenting the metaphor of liberty as a beloved mother who must be betrayed by her children in order for tyranny to triumph, the speaker ends the octet saying “Their country conquers with their martyrdom, And freedom's fame finds wings on every wind.” (7/8). Tyranny, by locking up liberty's sons in “damp vaults” (6) succeeds only in creating martyrs whose example inspires the people, leading to their downfall.The rhyme scheme in the octet follows the pattern of a typical Italian Sonnet, A, B, B, A, B, C, C, B. The first quatrain uses auditory rhymes “Mind!” (1) and “bind” (4), “art” (2) and “heart” (3). The second quatrain though, is all site rhymes, “consigned” (5) and “wind” (8), “gloom” (6) and “martyrdom” (7). This auditory dissonance forces the reader to slow down by breaking the rhythm of of the poem, making the reader think more about the speaker's message...

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