Elizabethan Sonnets

Canzoniere 90, Petrarch on his beloved, Laura

The way she walked was not the way of mortals
but of angelic forms, and when she spoke
more than an earthly voice it was that sang:

a godly spirit and a living sun
was what I saw, and if she is not now,
my wound still bleeds, although the bow's unbent.

Sonnet 7 from Hekatompathia (1582) by Thomas Watson

Hark you that list to hear what saint I serve:
Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold;
Her sparkling eyes in heav'n a place deserve;
Her forehead high and fair of comely mold;
    Her words are music all of silver sound;
    Her wit so sharp as like can scarce be found;
Each eyebrow hangs like Iris in the skies;
Her Eagle's nose is straight of stately frame;
On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies;
Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame;
    Her lips more red than any Coral stone;
    Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan;
Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock;
Her fingers long, fit for Apollo's Lute;
Her slipper such as Momus dare not mock;
Her virtues all so great as make me mute:
    What other parts she hath I need not say,
    Whose face alone is cause of my decay.

From Fidessa by Bartholomew Griffin. Published 1596

My Lady's hair is threads of beaten gold;
  Her front the purest crystal eye hath seen;
Her eyes the brightest stars the heavens hold;
  Her cheeks, red roses, such as seld have been;
Her pretty lips of red vermilion dye;
  Her hand of ivory the purest white;
Her blush AURORA, or the morning sky.
  Her breast displays two silver fountains bright;
The spheres, her voice; her grace, the Graces three; 

 Her body is the saint that I adore;
Her smiles and favours, sweet as honey be.
  Her feet, fair THETIS praiseth evermore.
    But Ah, the worst and last is yet behind :
    For of a griffon she doth bear the mind!


Shakespeare from Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene v

Romeo and Juliet have just met at the Capulet's Party. They fall in love at first sight and then meet secretly and have their first kiss.

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

Then have my lips the sin that they have took.

Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

Shakespeare 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 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.






Botticelli, Sandro
The birth of Venus
DETAIL OF the face of Venus
c. 1485 Uffizi, Florence




































Hals, Frans
Gypsy Girl
Oil on wood
23 x 20 1/2 in. (58 x 52 cm)
Musee du Louvre, Paris