Wednesday, April 23, 2008

National Poetry Month: Sonnet 130

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 damask'd, 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.

Is Will just being sarcastic?
Standing the tired old Italian sonnet on its head?
Or is this a pure and honest expression of love?

(Happy birthday, Will!)


Brave Sir Robin said...

You know, I almost chose that one yesterday myself. I've always liked this one.

I think it's pure and honest, and it goes right in with 116.

If the love is true, none of the rest of that will matter. Beauty, like love is in the eye of the beholder.

iamcoyote said...

I'm with Robin - sounds like Will is saying that he loves his lover warts and all, and his love is as lofty as any that prompts a poet to flowery language about he sweetheart. I really like this one, myself. Thanks for the reminder!

iamcoyote said...

...about his sweetheart...

Bee said...

I just hear Sting when I read this sonnet!

But seriously; I think his point is that romantic hyperbole is too much, but still not enough.

(How about Shakespeare's marriage? All I can think about is how he kept going away . . . or staying away.)

Bee said...

Ok, and another thing.

"Black wires," "dun," "reeks" -- this language makes my flesh crawl!

I'm sorry to be the naysayer on true love, but I think there's an edge there.

Brave Sir Robin said...

I just hear Sting when I read this sonnet!


Have you read the liner notes on that song?

Brave Sir Robin said...

Of course Bee, he wasn't writing sonnets for his wife, was he?

Bitty said...

You've clearly all been having fun with this one in my absence.

I (who adore Sting) suspect that he'd be thrilled to know he's displaced William Shakespeare in our heads. I probably read the liner notes eons ago, but don't remember them. Fill us in, BSR?

The "wires" line has always bothered me. It doesn't seem to fit. "If hairs be wires"? Who would have been describing them that way as the ideal? It would make more sense to say something such as "If hairs be silk, black wires grow on her head." I wonder if this line was mis-transcribed at some point.

And indeed, Bee -- who said these sonnets were for his wife?

Bee said...

Oh, I'm quite sure that these sonnets are NOT about his wife . . . but since we've never heard of any other long-lasting loves of his, I questions his claims to love both "rare" and "enduring."

I think he was playing around with language and romantic tropes . . . I'm just not feeling the love.

and BTW: What were the liner notes? Like Bitty, I've read them -- but forgotten them.

Brave Sir Robin said...

When i get home, I shall transcribe the liner notes for you, but it goes something along the lines of - He was newly arrived in New York City (I think) and he was accosted by a drunken homeless guy who said something along the lines of "look at the moon" and Sting replied, "My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun", and then wrote the song.

I'll be back with the actual notes later.

Brave Sir Robin said...

OK - I promised the liner notes. I didn't remember it exactly:

(For the Song Sister Moon

"I was accosted late one night by a staggering drunk who grabbed me by the lapels and, after tranquilizing me with his foul breath, pointed to the moon which was swollen in its fullness and demanded of me threateningly, "How beautiful is the moon? . . . How beautiful is the moon?" he repeated. Thinking quickly and not wishing for an early toxic death, I fixed him with my eye and declaimed, "My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun." Shakespeare is always useful I've found for calming down violent drunks if only because it gives them the impression that you're crazier than they are. "A good answer . . " he said. "A good answer" as he set off on a tack for Kentish Town like a listing Galleon.

Sister moon is a song for lunatics everywhere, for all of those whose sanity is dependent on the phases of the moon."

For those of you who aren't Sting fans, that from his 1987 lp, Nothing Like The Sun.
(appropriately named, for this discussion, yes?)