Please paraphrase the earl of Surrey, Henry Howard's poem, "Alas! So All Things Now Do Hold Their Peace."Alas, so all things now do hold their peace!by Henry Howard, Earl of SurreyAlas, so all...

Please paraphrase the earl of Surrey, Henry Howard's poem, "Alas! So All Things Now Do Hold Their Peace."

Alas, so all things now do hold their peace!
by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Alas, so all things now do hold their peace!
   Heaven and earth disturbèd in no thing;
The beasts, the air, the birds their song do cease,
   The nightès car the stars about doth bring;

Calm is the sea; the waves work less and less:
   So am not I, whom love, alas! doth wring,
Bringing before my face the great increase
   Of my desires, whereat I weep and sing,

In joy and woe, as in a doubtful case.
   For my sweet thoughts sometime do pleasure bring
But by and by, the cause of my disease
   Gives me a pang that inwardly doth sting,

When that I think what grief it is again
To live and lack the thing should rid my pain. 

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A summary is required before you can properly understand a paraphrase of this sonnet. It is a lament that the quietude and peace of night displayed by "Heaven and earth" does not carry over to the poet/sonneteer. Nonetheless, sometimes his "sweet thoughts" do bring the moment of illusionary quietude when he thinks of his beloved. This illusion is shattered, though, when his heart-pain reminds him that he has been rejected. Remember that paraphrases take many more words than compressed poetry with its metonymy, metaphor, allusion, analogy and figures of speech.


With woe I notice that all things in nature hold their peace and are quiet.
Neither heaven nor earth have anything stirring.
The animals, the winds, the birds, all are quiet; there is no song anywhere.
The night sky swirls the stars past in orderly rotation.

The sea is calm; the waves work less and less in the lowering tide.
I am not like the sea; I grow not quieter, I who love does woefully pain.
Love brings me the image of the one I love that causes me to both weep and sing.

In both joy and sorrow, love brings me double feelings.
My loving thoughts sometimes give me pleasure
Until the cause of my woe returns to my thoughts
Causing me an inward pang of stinging pain.

This is because I again think of what grief I have
In living when I lack the returned love that would rid me of my pain.

This sonnet is written in three quatrains with an ending couplet. Sonnets are 14 lines, and Surrey experimented with different forms derived from the original Petrarchan sonnet. This one is divided into three quatrains of four lines each plus an ending couplet of two lines; couplets, of course, always rhyme. The value of separating a sonnet into quatrains, sestets (six lines) or octaves (eight lines) is that the topics falling under the sonnet's subject matter (the effects of his love that is rejected) may be switched or paradoxes may be described or resolutions to problems may be introduced.

In this sonnet, Surrey covers three topics and introduces a paradox in the couplet resolution that explains his lament ("Alas! ... and woe"). The topics are (a) the quietude of night (1-5); (b) his disquietude and woe (6-9); (c) his unrequited love "disease" (10-12). Lines 13-14 explain his lament of "woe" and "grief": he lives without the love that would still his pain; his love is unrequited (unreturned).

The turn from one topic to the next, called the "volta," occurs at the first line of the next quatrain. In other words, Surrey uses the last line of a topic as the bridge into the next topic. For example, the quiet of night is the topic of the first quatrain yet the calm sea is the first line of the second quatrain; it acts as a bridge to the topic of his own feelings and pushes the turn, or volta, from line five to line six. Thus the two voltas, turning to the new topics (b) and (c), are placed experimentally at lines 6 and 10 instead of at the expected lines 5 and 9. Each quatrain has the same abab rhyme scheme, while the couplet is cc.

elenee | Student

This poem is about inner struggle. He speaks of his loved one and how the love he feels is unrequited. How everything has found it's peace, except for him. He says: " I weep and sing, in joy and woe, as in a doubtful ease: For my sweet thoughts sometime do pleasure bring..." He is claiming that even though she brings him disease, the mere thought of her brings him calm till he remembers the cause of his pain: she rejects him.

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