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Monday, October 24, 2016

Dog gone it - what rhymes with sonnet?

This story is a few years old, but true nonetheless. I think maybe it's safe to go public with it now. My nephew Tyler did get his high school diploma and is well on his way to his college degree.

It was a Sunday afternoon in late fall when my phone rang.  I recognized my brother Tim's number so I answered, expecting to discuss some upcoming holiday plans or some such thing. Nope. As near as I can remember, the conversation started out something like this: "Um, Tyler asked me to help him with a school project that's due tomorrow. We've been looking at it for awhile, and neither one of us has a clue so we decided to see if Aunt Cindy would help."

Well, sure, any opportunity to help one of my nephews or nieces is great - but school? I'm no good at science. I had to quit helping my kids with their math about 7th grade, and if it's history, well, that's more up my son Nolan's alley."I'll try. What's the problem?"

 "Tyler's senior literature class is studying Hamlet." I started to relax. OK, Hamlet. Yeah, maybe I could do this.

"What? You want me to explain Hamlet to you?" I was quite confident. I think I got an A in Shakespeare.

"No, not exactly." Turns out, Tyler's teacher had assigned the kids a poem. As in write-your-own-sonnet. A sonnet, huh? This was new territory for me, but I was intrigued.

"That sounds kind of fun," I replied. As soon as Tim and Tyler could control their laughter after my innocent remark, I promised to call them back when I had some idea of what was a sonnet and how did one go about writing one.

"OK, I'll go take a nap, then," was Tim's answer. Now what? Tyler's grade was on the line here. Aunt Cindy could not fail.

I looked up sonnet on google and came up with a definition roughly like this:
A sonnet is 14 lines with a set number of syllables per line. The Shakespearean rhyme scheme is
A
B
A
B
C
D
C
D
E
F
E
F
G
G
Every A rhymes with every A, every B rhymes with every B, and so forth. There are more factors such as presenting an argument, using metaphors and ending with a new idea, but that all sounded a little complicated. The rhyme scheme was about all I wanted to conquer. 

Next, I had to review Hamlet. It'd been a few years since I'd read it. I took some notes, made a rough draft of a sonnet, and called my brother back an hour later. He wasn't finished with his nap yet, but he was polite about me waking him up.

"Well, I think I have something for you to go on," I announced. "I've come up with the mandatory 14 lines that rhyme a certain way and Tyler can take it from there." I told them I'd email the sonnet and Tyler could change it however he liked. Mission accomplished. I went back to whatever I'd been doing an hour ago.

A few days later my brother called again. "You got an A," he stated as if there'd never been any doubt. "Tyler's teacher thought he copied the sonnet from somewhere, but she couldn't find anything even similar on the internet, so Tyler aced the whole project." Well duh. The only place she could find that sonnet was in Aunt Cindy's Shakespearean brain.

I guess Tyler didn't want to change anything from it's rough draft format. I guess he didn't need to. Tim said he was prepared to tell the teacher his aunt  helped him with it, but she never asked. And so there you have it - my humble contribution to my nephew's upcoming high school graduation. Want to read it?

Ophelia his beautiful daughter
Thought Polinius’ advice made sense
Bewitched him until Hamlet sought her
Then in a fit of pique, snubbed her prince
He tells his children many a rule
To thine ownself be true, my dears
But he was but a rambler and a fool
Spied on them all to prove his own fears
‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’
But the advice he gives turns out bad
Laertes will duel with his enemy
His poor daughter goes stark raving mad
Polinius will plot, connive and complain
But in the end he can but cry “I am slain”

Yeah -  so it's now officially on the internet, but the A stands. My niece Megan, Tyler's sister, is a senior this year and I think she has the same class. Do you think I have another sonnet in me?