April 10th: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"

Here’s another one that’s not about the poet’s girlfriend at all; rather, it’s a commentary on the folly of hyperbolic poetic comparison. And yet! It makes me swoon.

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Sonnet 130
by William Shakespeare

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.

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And if THAT didn’t make you swoon, listen to Alan Rickman read it:

That background picture is amazing, isn’t it?

2 thoughts on “April 10th: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"”

  1. Oh, I’ve loved this one since long before I’d ever heard of Alan Rickman. The vaguely cynical tone gives it a delicious tension that the straight-ahead love poem doesn’t have, and makes it all the sweeter at the end when he says he loves her. You get the sense that this is a guy who’s got his head on his shoulders, and isn’t going to stop loving her after the first bloom wears off.
    I always think of it together with Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink” – do you know that one? Here, anyway:
    http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Poetry/Millay/Love_Is_Not_All.html
    Double swoon!

    1. Yes, me too! I read Shakespeare’s sonnets straight through in high school and that was probably my favorite. Because yeah, it does seem like he sees her for who she is and still thinks that’s great.
      Ooh, “Love is not all” is a great one I haven’t seen before, thank you! My poem for today is actually also a slightly cynical Edna St. Vincent Millay love poem–she does them really well, doesn’t she?

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