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The Well Read Poem

Jan 17, 2022

In this seventh season, we are going to read six poems about romantic love. Love may seem to be the most fundamental subject for poetry, but interestingly, it is not. When we consider the great poetic traditions of almost any people, we find that love is by no means the first matter that has inspired their poets. The poems we will read together come from several different periods in time, and I would like to examine, among other things, how the language of romance has changed in the English-speaking world over the centuries. Today's piece is "Sonnet 130: My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun" by William Shakespeare. Poem begins at timestamp 5:13.

Sonnet 130: My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun

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.