My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun, Coral is far more red, than her lips red, If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun: If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head: I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks, And in some perfumes is there more delight, Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know, That music hath a far more pleasing sound: I grant I never saw a goddess go, My mistress when she walks treads on the ground. And yet by heaven I think my love as rare, As any she belied with false compare
I received many detentions in my misspent youth, for not wearing my hat to school…it was an unflattering beret which made my ears stick out more than usual! My punishment was to write out Shakespearean sonnets. Consequently I have stayed away from them partly because I don’t want to be reminded of those wasted hours and partly believing them to be rather spurious and sentimental. The thought occurred to me recently that maybe there were one or more sonnets that might prove this thought wrong.
An internet search did just that in five minutes. The sonnet above which is apparently one of his most famous, is according to my research, an example of his not as was the fashion, comparing his love to the beauties of nature, i.e the snowy breast,the damask rose cheeks but rather doing the opposite. When I first read the above and before reading any commentaries I thought it was a very realistic love poem and while not ‘romantic’ as such, more genuine in its truth. I have since found some more, equally interesting examples of his sonnets. Critics have come up with a number of reasons for this turn of events, such as Shakespeare having a bit of a laugh at the traditional Petrarchan style of sonnet deliverance. He was certainly a realist with a down to earth understanding of human behaviour. Perhaps he had too much sense of humour and originality to keep up with the pretenses of his fellows.
There are a number of well written sites and commentaries on the sonnets online. The most detailed I have found and one that includes commentary as well as historical detail belongs to Oxquarry Books Ltd. Go here to reach their homepage or for an excellent page on the above poem go to the discussion on Sonnet 130 here.
PLease go on over to our Tuesday Poem Hub, where Elizabeth Welsh is today’s editor with a very different kind of love poem.
Shakespeare would have approved. And do check out the smorgasbord of other Tuesday Poems in the left hand sidebar.