Identify the allusions Judith Viorst uses in "A Wedding Sonnet For the Next Generation." What is the purpose of using these allusions, and what assumption does Viorst make about her audience by...

Identify the allusions Judith Viorst uses in "A Wedding Sonnet For the Next Generation." What is the purpose of using these allusions, and what assumption does Viorst make about her audience by including them?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Judith Viorst's poem, "A Wedding Sonnet For the Next Generation," the author alludes to several famous sonnets, writing some of her lines to mirror those of poets Shakespeare, Yeats and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Viorst's first line, "He might compare you to a summer's day" alludes to Sonnet 18, by William Shakespeare who writes:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

In the third and fourth lines of Viorst's poem, she has written:

She might, with depth and breadth and many sighs,

Count all the ways she loves you, way by way.

These lines mirror another famous poet and her sonnet: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet 43. Browning's poem reads:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height...

Finally, lines five and six of Judith Viorst's poem are:

He might sit when you're old and full of sleep

He'll cherish still the pilgrim soul in you.

These lines are very similar to William Butler Yeats' poem entitled, "When You Are Old." The lines he has written are:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you...

Viorst uses these allusions to draw a comparison between the sonnets of the "old masters" to a new kind of poem "for the next generation" of lovers. I would infer from her poem's conclusion that "your mother or father's sonnets" won't do for a more modern audience. The concept of romance has changed over time. Words of undying devotion may not be what lovers are looking for today. Viorst makes it clear that instead of words that praise one's beauty or attest to undying devotion, the modern-day poem (for she doesnot write a sonnet) should include "plainer" words like:

Respect. Trust. Comfort. Home.

In a more modern context, these are important elements to a more realistic relationship: these are the promises that members of today's generation looks for from a sweetheart or lover. Their importance, as seen by the author, is shown in the presentation of each word: capitalized and followed by a period. They are not part of a one-size-fits-all package: each element stands on its own, each one equally important.

The only dangerous assumption that Viorst makes in using these allusions is that her audience will be familiar with the sonnets she is alluding to. If Viorst's audience does not know the sonnets she has referred to, they may well miss her point. In that case, the reader will simply read a poem with a regular rhyme schemeABBA,ABBAABBA, which is written in iambic pentameter. However, he/she may well not understand the concept of change that is demonstrated by comparing a timeless sonnet to a modern poem in hopes of having the reader understand that things are different than they were during Shakespeare, Yeats or Browning's time—that rapturous poems with promises of love in "days of old," may not win the heart of one in love today.

 

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