Module 4: Poetry

5. Algernon Charles Swinburne: “Sestina”

This example features a so-called “sestina,” a highly structured verse form consisting of 6 six-line stanzas followed by 1 three-line stanza. While the same set of six words conclude the lines of each stanza, in each stanza they occur in a different order. Since Swinburne in this example adheres to a strictly alternating rhyming scheme (if the internal rhyme of the tercet is not taken into account), the line ending patterns in this example vary from the traditional structural pattern for a sestina.

In this example, the rhyming scheme is indicated per stanza, using the @rhyme attribute on the stanza’s <lg> element. Rhyming words are marked with <rhyme> elements, with a @label attribute indicating their place in the rhyming scheme. In order to trace the line ending scheme, the ending words of the first stanza have been identified with an @xml:id attribute. Since they were already marked with a <rhyme> element, identification happens on this level. In the other stanzas, each line ending word is connected to its counterpart of the first stanza with a @corresp attribute. This is one of the global linking attributes, whose value formalises a correspondence relationship with another identified element (see the TEI Guidelines section 16.4 Correspondence and Alignment). Since the reference is to a local element (an identified element in the same document), its value takes the form of a shorthand local pointer by simply preceding the target’s @xml:id value with a hash sign #. Here too, the <rhyme> element provides a sufficient peg for pointing out this correspondence. Otherwise, if no other element would have been available, a <seg> element could be introduced for identifying or referring to a span of text.

<lg xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/1.0" type="sestina">
<lg type="sestet" rhyme="ababab">
<l>I saw my soul at rest upon a
<rhyme label="a" xml:id="A">day</rhyme>
</l>
<l>As a bird sleeping in the nest of
<rhyme label="b" xml:id="B">night</rhyme>
,</l>
<l>Among soft leaves that give the starlight
<rhyme label="a" xml:id="C">way</rhyme>
</l>
<l>To touch its wings but not its eyes with
<rhyme label="b" xml:id="D">light</rhyme>
;</l>
<l>So that it knew as one in visions
<rhyme label="a" xml:id="E">may</rhyme>
,</l>
<l>And knew not as men waking, of
<rhyme label="b" xml:id="F">delight</rhyme>
.</l>
</lg>
<lg type="sestet" rhyme="ababab">
<l>This was the measure of my soul's
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#F">delight</rhyme>
;</l>
<l>It had no power of joy to fly by
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#A">day</rhyme>
,</l>
<l>Nor part in the large lordship of the
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#D">light</rhyme>
;</l>
<l>But in a secret moon-beholden
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#C">way</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Had all its will of dreams and pleasant
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#B">night</rhyme>
,</l>
<l>And all the love and life that sleepers
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#E">may</rhyme>
.</l>
</lg>
<lg type="sestet" rhyme="ababab">
<l>But such life's triumph as men waking
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#E">may</rhyme>
</l>
<l>It might not have to feed its faint
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#F">delight</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Between the stars by night and sun by
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#A">day,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Shut up with green leaves and a little
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#D">light;</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Because its way was as a lost star's
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#C">way,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>A world's not wholly known of day or
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#B">night.</rhyme>
</l>
</lg>
<lg type="sestet" rhyme="ababab">
<l>All loves and dreams and sounds and gleams of
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#B">night</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Made it all music that such minstrels
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#E">may,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>And all they had they gave it of
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#F">delight;</rhyme>
</l>
<l>But in the full face of the fire of
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#A">day</rhyme>
</l>
<l>What place shall be for any starry
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#D">light,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>What part of heaven in all the wide sun's
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#C">way?</rhyme>
</l>
</lg>
<lg type="sestet" rhyme="ababab">
<l>Yet the soul woke not, sleeping by the
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#C">way,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Watched as a nursling of the large-eyed
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#B">night,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>And sought no strength nor knowledge of the
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#A">day,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Nor closer touch conclusive of
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#F">delight,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Nor mightier joy nor truer than dreamers
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#E">may,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Nor more of song than they, nor more of
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#D">light.</rhyme>
</l>
</lg>
<lg type="sestet" rhyme="ababab">
<l>For who sleeps once and sees the secret
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#D">light</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Whereby sleep shows the soul a fairer
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#C">way</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Between the rise and rest of day and
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#B">night,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Shall care no more to fare as all men
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#E">may,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>But be his place of pain or of
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#F">delight,</rhyme>
</l>
<l>There shall he dwell, beholding night as
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#A">day.</rhyme>
</l>
</lg>
<lg type="tercet" rhyme="abbaab">
<l>Song, have thy
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#A">day</rhyme>
and take thy fill of
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#D">light</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Before the
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#B">night</rhyme>
be fallen across thy
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#C">way;</rhyme>
</l>
<l>Sing while he
<rhyme label="a" corresp="#E">may</rhyme>
, man hath no long
<rhyme label="b" corresp="#F">delight.</rhyme>
</l>
</lg>
</lg>
Example 5. TBE-crafted example encoding of Algernon Swinburne’s poem “Sestina” (Swinburne 1924).

Bibliography

  • Blake, William. 1789. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. London: W Blake. Encoded and made available by the University of Virginia Library, Text Collection at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/BlaSong.html.
  • Browning, Robert. 1842. Dramatic Lyrics. London: Moxon.
  • Carroll, Lewis. 1865. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. New York: D. Appleton and co. p. 37.
  • Islam, Mubina. 2004. “A Selection of Sonnets: electronic edition encoded in XML with a TEI DTD.” Unpublished Master’s Dissertation, London: University College London.
  • Shakespeare, William. 1978. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Edited by Alexander, Peter. London: Collins.
  • Swinburne, Algernon Charles. 1924. Swinburne’s Collected Poetical Works. London: William Heinemann. p. 330–31.