Lesson Plans Lesson Plans

Longfellow Studies: Longfellow and the American Sonnet

Mary Willink, Greater Portland Christian School, Cumberland County



  • English Language Arts -- Reading
  • Social Studies -- History

1 day

  • 1851-1920

Traditionally the Petrarchan sonnet as used by Francesco Petrarch was a 14 line lyric poem using a pattern of hendecasyllables and a strict end-line rhyme scheme; the first twelve lines followed one pattern and the last two lines another. The last two lines were the "volta" or "turn" in the poem. When the sonnet came to the United States sometime after 1775, through the work of Colonel David Humphreys, Longfellow was one of the first to write widely in this form which he adapted to suit his tone. Since 1900 poets have modified and experimented with the traditional traits of the sonnet form.

  • Students will be able to explain why Longfellow's sonnets are a variation of the Petrarchan Sonnet and explain how Longfellow used an image/setting to describe an emotion.

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A resource developed through the "Longfellow & the Forging of American Identity" program funded by NEH