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April 18, 2012 / Sez

Bill and Nellie (Poetry Form 36: Shakespearean Sonnet)

Another sonnet, today, this time , Shakespearean.

This is about an old couple I knew when I worked at a nursing home.


He calls her “Toots” and “little chickadee”

And in the day room, clasps her knobbly hand

Makes sure that there’s three sugars in her tea

And tries to help the nurses understand


What she would like. He has to be her voice

The stroke which struck her dumb and holds her still

Prevented her from having any choice

And yet he tries, and yet he always will


But sometimes words come to her lips again

When, angry, scared, surprised, her voice will quaver

And sometimes out of love, the words will strain

From her, to show she knows he will not waver


So, sometimes, as he bends to kiss and hug her,

These words, suffused with love: “Yer daft old bugger!”



Leave a Comment
  1. Jenn Flanagan / Apr 18 2012 7:18 pm

    Wonderful! I attempted a Shakespearean Sonnet a few days ago, and it was just ehh. Check out my site if you have some time! It is called The Poetry Warehouse — And keep your fabulous work coming! 🙂 -Jenn

  2. mike hopkins / Apr 19 2012 5:52 am

    Like it. Nice sonnet. I’d like to see a version without a flippant ending to see if it worked better (or not)

    • Sarah Thomasin / Apr 19 2012 10:48 am

      Funnily enough the final couplet was my starting point. I didn’t see it as particularly flippant, just a description of an exchange I heard and saw.

      • mike hopkins / Apr 19 2012 12:27 pm

        Interesting. The previous lines don’t lead me to expect that final phrase. Which can be good. I’ve just got the feeling that it might work as well, or possibly better, with an alternative end. Which would require ‘poetic licence’ since the whole thing was inspired by your real life observation. NIce work, anyway.

      • Sarah Thomasin / Apr 19 2012 1:35 pm

        I think it was the juxtaposition of the poignant and the ridiculous that made this couple stick in my mind.

  3. aprille / Apr 21 2012 7:50 am

    The final two lines that were your starting point are the crux of the poem. You were right to hold them back until the end.
    I wonder if the perception of the final phrase, away from British English could be different. To me it is purely a term of endearment, but maybe they see it differently abroad.
    I found this poem incredibly moving and it has stayed with me since I first read it. A feather in your cap.

    • Sarah Thomasin / Apr 21 2012 1:08 pm

      I think you’re right – there is a certain type of British – Yorkshire, in this case – affection that can only be expressed through loving insults and feigned disapproval.
      Perhaps in other accents/cultures that sense is lost.

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