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Sonnet to a Playful God

A Shakespearian sonnet about the value of play.

They say that the only thing worse than a man who writes poetry is one who shows it to others. Oh dear, dare I?

One of my secret pleasures (well, it was a secret from most people up until now) is writing sonnets. I like the structure of it: the classic Shakespearian sonnet, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter (diDAH diDAH diDAH diDAH diDAH), with a rhyme scheme of ABAB for each of three four-line stanzas and ending with a rhyming couplet. This is one of my favorite ways to play.

One of the defining characteristics of play is that it always has rules (play is never random behavior), yet the rules are such as to allow for an infinite amount of creativity within their boundaries (for my definition of play, see here). That’s why, to me, writing a sonnet (or any other structured form of poetry) seems more playful than writing free verse.

Here’s a sonnet I wrote to accompany a lay sermon I gave a few years ago at the church I belong to (not surprisingly it’s a Unitarian church). In the sermon I described play from two perspectives: A religious perspective (where play is God’s gift that makes life on earth worthwhile) and the evolutionary perspective (where play is nature’s way of ensuring that young humans and other young mammals learn the skills they must in order to survive and thrive and is also nature’s way of promoting social harmony). At the end, I summarized some of the sermon with this sonnet.

As you read each of the first eight lines, you might think about how play accomplishes the claim of that line.

Sonnet to a Playful God

In play we learn to think in ways most clear.

In play with others we resolve our strife.

In play we laugh at what provokes our fear.

In play we soar above our routine life.

In play we learn to follow rules we share,

Assert our selves while making others smile.

In play what’s right is what to all is fair.

In play it’s fun to go the extra mile.

And so to you the god of play we pray,

Please keep our ludic spirit’s liveliness.

As we approach the trials of each day,

Protect us from our over-seriousness.

From dust to dust we all end up the same.

What counts in life is how we play the game.


Is there anyone else out there willing to confess that they write poetry, and who has written a poem relevant to the topics of this blog—child development, creativity, curiosity, education, evolutionary psychology, and play? If so, please post it here as a “comment”! This blog is a forum for discussion, and your stories, comments, and questions (and even your poems!) are valued and treated with respect by me and other readers. As always, I prefer if you post your comments here rather than send them to me by private email. By putting them here, you share with other readers, not just with me. I read all comments and try to respond to all serious questions, if I feel I have something useful to say. Of course, if you have something to say that truly applies only to you and me, then send me an email.


For more about young people’s need for play, see Free to Learn: Why Releasing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.