So is it not with me as with that Muse,
Stirr'd by a painted beauty to his verse;
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use,
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse;
Making a couplement of proud compare,
With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems,
With April's first-born flowers, and all things rare
That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems.
O' let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother's child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix'd in heaven's air:
Let them say more than like of hearsay well;
I will not praise, that purpose not to sell.
XXI. It is not necessary for the poet to flatter his friend, or to
follow the example of other poets, who, inspired by meretricious
charms, indulge in extravagant comparisons. There is none born of
woman more beautiful than Mr. W. H., though, in its brightness, his
beauty is not comparable to that of the stars, whose brightness is
of a different nature.
1, 2. The muse is identified with the poet in question. As to the words
"painted beauty," cf. XX. i. Possibly some particular poet may be intended.
4. Every fair with his fair, &c. Compares everything beautiful with the
beauty which he celebrates. Cf. XVIII. 7.
5. Couplement. Represented in Q. by "cooplement." Of proud compare. Coupling, in his exalted and inflated comparisons, the beauty
which he celebrates with objects specified in the three following lines.
11. A poet's rage. The product of poetical enthusiasm.
12. Stretched metre. Mere inflated words. Q. has the spelling "miter."
8. This huge rondure. Possibly the vast circumference of the limiting
horizon, or possibly the vault of heaven. On the whole, the former sense
seems the more probable.
"Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold."
13. That like of hearsay well. Who are pleased with idle and extravagant
talk. The "of," in our present idiom, would be redundant.
14. I will not praise, &c. I will not indulge in extravagant laudation, as
sellers do, wishing to part with what they praise. Cf. Passionate Pilgrim, 19:
"But plainly say thou lov'st her well,
And set her person forth to sell."
Also Troilus and Cressida, Act iv. sc. i, line 78, "We'll not commend
what we intend to sell." Paris here speaks; but it would not seem that he really wanted to part with Helen. If he did, he would do as vendors do. He intends to sell only at a costly price, by the fortune of war.
How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 12 Nov. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/21.html >.
Did You Know? ... "The poet was throughout his life greatly indebted to the patronage and support of royal and noble personages; his royal patrons were Queen Elizabeth and King James I, both of whom greatly loved the drama. The virgin queen devoted herself to the study of the ancient classical period; she also delighted in our own theatrical entertainments, and used her influence in the progress of the English drama, and fostered the inimitable genius of Shakespeare." Henry Brown. Read on....