Sonnet convention?

I’m working on cataloging the sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

I was tempted to just go with the untitled poem convention, but I see that there is already some precedent for sonnet naming under William Shakespeare.

I wonder if I should try to follow the lead with Shakespeare, or whether we should give this some more thought. There are some similarities; people do refer to Browning’s sonnets by number as they do for Shakespeare.

Are we happy with the current convention? Example:
Sonnet 123 (Thou readest the first line of text herest)

To quoteth ChatGPT, whom I promoted to express this sentiment in the style of Shakespeare:

Hark! 'Twould be prudent, ere we farther tread,
To settle this, and with agreement head,
Lest down the road we find ourselves astray,
And rue the path we’ve traveled on this day.


I don’t see a better solution. Of course, we also could use the colon we are already using for subtitles.
But that’s just a matter of taste I think.

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OK, I’ll proceed with it.

I seem to always arrive late to the party.

I would just like to make to make two points:

  1. I think we should use square brackets here, to be consistent with the untitled works guideline.
  2. I don’t like the idea of a naming convention for only one poetic form, unless it is very peculiar — and sonnets are hardly peculiar. I actually feel this can be extended to other works that are numbered, e.g. Sonnet 123, but also Poem 1, Poem 2, Poem 3, etc. (such as in Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair), 1., 2., 3. (such as E. E. Cummings’ Erotic Poems — see 9. here)… Likely there are also short story collections where the stories are numbered.

So I would suggest:

  • Sonnet 28 [How can I then return in happy plight]
  • Poema 2 [En su llama mortal la luz te envuelve]
    1. [there are so many tictoc]

OK, holding off on working in this area until we get some consensus.

[Also, trying to reply to this through email. Let’s see how much it botches my reply…]

So fair to say that if there’s some naming and numbering convention for a particular author, makes sense to follow it? Like sonnet number for Shakespeare?

I think I will probably prefer the square brackets over round ones. Given my background in MB, quotation marks look even nicer to my eyes:

Sonnet 43. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”

With square brackets as we’re contemplating, it would look thus:

Sonnet 43 [How do I love thee? Let me count the ways]

I think if a poem is a part of another work, that work should probably be part of the name. This starts to feel a little bit like opera or classical style in MB.


you’re right, of course.


We can do this, but this will hopefully only be a temporary solution until we have a better way to organize contents of editions.


It also looks nicer to my eyes, I just think being consistent is more important.

I actually think the way MB allows you to define parts of longer works, their order, and display them in the work page is what should go for. And as for it being part of the name, I agree with @indy133, works should be displayed hierarchically: adaptations and translations within the original work, parts within the larger work — and this is very seriously needed… But this isn’t a simple thing to do and probably won’t happen soon. I suggest for now we use the disambiguation field if needed:

  • Sonnet XXVIII [My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!] (Sonnets from the Portuguese)
  • Poema 1 [Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos] (Veinte Poemas de Amor)

This looks good to me, what do you think? I’m afraid it might get too long if we need to add more elements (translation, etc.), but that is unavoidable. And not all sonnet collections need a title. It doesn’t make sense to add “Shakespere’s poems” as a disambiguation to one of Shakespere’s poems.

Yeah, that’s getting long, even without any disambiguation. I think I’ll be content for now to just indicate the sonnet number and text. If there were two Sonnet 28s (unlikely) the text would surely disambiguate it. Annotations can solve the rest.


Agreed. I don’t have a strong opinion about this. The works should be connected, but ideally with logical relationships.

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