Write a critical note and summary of Henry Howard's sonnet  "The Soote Season".

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two interesting elements stand out in Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey's sonnet. Surrey constructs the sonnet in three quatrains and an ending couplet--a structure later borrowed by Spenser and Shakespeare. Surrey's rhyme scheme though is abababababab aa. In addition, he employs the rhetorical word scheme technique of hyperbaton, the modification of expected word order syntax. In each quatrain, there are instances of general hyperbaton syntax of Subject Object Verb (SOV) instead of the expected Subject Verb Object (SV/O/C). An example is "The nightingale with feathers new (S) she (O) sings (V)." The expected syntax would be: "The nightingale with new feathers (S) sings (V) [no (O)]. Even "feathers new" is a special class of hyperbaton called anastrophe in which the normal order of Adjective + Noun is inverted to Noun + Adjective as in feathers (N) + new (Adj).

Some of these hyperbatonized sentences are quite intricate, for example: "Winter is worn that was the flower's bale." The basic syntax of the sentence as written by Surrey is SVC (Complement to the Subject), yet the noun modifying that-clause has been relocated to a position following the Complement "worn." The substituting paraphrase of this sentence is: "Winter that now is worn (S) was (V) the flower's bale [i.e., destroyer] (C)." The ending lines in the couplet are in the expected SV/O/C pattern, e.g., "and yet my sorrow (S) springs (V)."

This sad sonnet employs the paradox of the Petrarchan sonnet model. The quatrains talk about the features of the seasons. Instead of one Petrarchan volta at line 9 to change, or turn, the theme of the subject, there are two voltas (an innovation Spenser and Shakespeare later used). The first quatrain describes the pleasures of spring: "bud and bloom forth brings." The first volta at line 5 turns to summer's pleasures: "Summer is come." The second volta at line 9 turns the third quatrain to autumn, when the honey bee "mings," or remembers, having made honey, and to "the flower's bale," winter, that overwhelmed the flowers but now itself is "worn." The sorrow and paradox come in the second line of the couplet where we discover that after watching the pleasantries of the changing seasons for a year, the poetic speaker's sorrow wells up like a spring:

And thus I see among these pleasant things
Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs.

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