Set Me Whereas the Sun Doth Parch the Green

by Henry Howard

Set me whereas the sun doth parch the green

Or where his beams may not dissolve the ice;

In temperate heat where he is felt and seen;

With proud people, in presence sad and wise;

Set me in base, or yet in high degree,

In long night or in the shortest day,

In clear weather or where mists thickest be,

In lost youth, or when my hairs are grey …

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-47) invented the English sonnet form, adapting the Italian form and rhyme scheme to create the blueprint that Shakespeare, among many others, would later use. In this sonnet, Surrey adapts an Italian poem written by Petrarch, and essentially says, ‘Put me wherever you like, in the warmest sun, in youth or in old age, in earth, heaven, or hell, but I’ll still love you the same’. The poem earns its place on this list for its opening four lines, describing the sun’s ‘temperate heat’.


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