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.
This poem is often misunderstood to be saying that his “mistress” is not as beautiful as all that. I suppose, if you are in a poor mood, it could be read that way. However, it’s more generally read in the opposite tone: his love for her is genuine enough to take her as she really is, not to idealize her in generic and conventional ways, because to do so is to devalue her beauty and what she means to him.
A “white” person’s skin tone is not actually white any more than a Native American’s skin is “red”, or an Asian’s “yellow”. Her voice he loves because it is hers, not because it literally makes sounds like a bag-pipe (though, that would be cool). Human lips are not coral-red unless they are bleeding!
Our conventions and cliches obscure reality by abstracting us away from what is in front of us. We cease to see when we impose upon what we’re seeing the conventional ways of describing it. In so doing, we miss the value inherent in the thing itself. This is made worse when that “thing” is a human being.
What beauty are you failing to see because of your failure to use your eyes?
Now go lift something heavy,
PS. The picture is of my lady Tamara flexing her biceps on a picnic table. This was at a rest-stop on our way to the last competition our team had. “Her biceps are like boulders; Her quads, like the mountains of Mars…” 😉