Give the commentary of each line of Sonnet 127

The Power of Sonnet 127: A Line-by-Line Commentary on Shakespeare’s Classic

Shakespeare’s sonnets are celebrated as some of the greatest masterpieces in English literature. Among them, Sonnet 127 holds a special place. This poetic work is not only beautifully crafted but also carries a deep meaning that continues to resonate with readers today. Sonnet 127 is an ode to the beauty and power of the dark lady, the object of Shakespeare’s affection. In this sonnet, the Bard of Avon employs his trademark wit, wordplay, and symbolism to convey the intensity of his passion. But beyond its surface-level beauty, Sonnet 127 also offers a rich and complex commentary on love, desire, and the human experience. In this article, we will explore Sonnet 127 line by line, unpacking its hidden meanings and uncovering the secrets of its enduring power. Join us on this journey of discovery as we delve into the heart of one of Shakespeare’s most captivating works.

Line-by-line analysis of Sonnet 127

Line 1: “In the old age black was not counted fair,”

The opening line sets the tone for the sonnet by introducing the contrast between past and present. The poet suggests that in ancient times, the color black was not considered beautiful or desirable. This line hints at societal standards of beauty that have evolved over time.

Line 2: “Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name;”

The second line continues the exploration of beauty standards, suggesting that even if black was considered attractive, it was not labeled as such. The use of the word “bore” implies that beauty was not attributed to the color black.

Line 3: “But now is black beauty’s successive heir,”

Here, the poet brings attention to the present time, asserting that black has now become the rightful inheritor of beauty. The use of the term “successive heir” suggests a shift in societal perceptions and a recognition of the aesthetic appeal of black.

Line 4: “And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:”

This line introduces a conflict between beauty and societal judgment. The poet suggests that beauty, specifically black beauty, has been unjustly maligned and associated with illegitimacy or shame. It highlights the prejudice and misconceptions surrounding beauty that exist within society.

Line 5: “For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,”

In this line, the poet reflects on the power of human intervention and the influence it has on beauty standards. The phrase “each hand” implies the collective efforts of individuals in shaping societal perceptions of beauty. It suggests that humans have taken on the role of defining what is considered beautiful, often straying from natural inclinations.

Line 6: “Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,”

The poet refers to the practice of using artificial means to enhance or alter one’s appearance. The phrase “fairing the foul” suggests the act of making something unattractive appear pleasing. The mention of “Art’s false borrowed face” alludes to the use of makeup or other cosmetic techniques to create an illusion of beauty.

Line 7: “Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,”

In this line, the poet emphasizes that true beauty does not adhere to labels or specific locations. The phrase “no holy bower” suggests that genuine beauty is not confined to sacred or exclusive spaces. It transcends societal constructs and exists independently, beyond any imposed categorizations.

Line 8: “But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.”

The poet expresses that true beauty is often disrespected or dishonored. The use of the word “profaned” suggests that beauty is subjected to sacrilege or treated with disrespect. Additionally, the line implies that if beauty does not conform to societal norms, it faces disgrace or shame.

Line 9: “Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black,”

Here, the poet shifts the focus to his mistress, describing her eyes as “raven black.” The choice of “raven black” not only signifies the color but also carries connotations of mystery, depth, and allure. It highlights the unique beauty possessed by the poet’s mistress.

Line 10: “Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem,”

The poet further elaborates on his mistress’s eyes, suggesting that they are perfectly suited to her overall appearance. The phrase “they mourners seem” implies that her eyes carry a melancholic or sorrowful expression. It adds an element of complexity and depth to her beauty.

Line 11: “At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,”

Here, the poet acknowledges that those who are not inherently born with conventional beauty do not lack in beauty altogether. It challenges the notion that beauty is solely determined by physical appearance at birth and emphasizes the potential for beauty to manifest in diverse forms.

Line 12: “Sland’ring creation with a false esteem:”

This line reflects on the negative consequences of society’s tendency to undervalue unconventional beauty. The phrase “sland’ring creation” suggests that societal judgments and prejudices against non-traditional beauty forms create a false perception of what is truly valuable or aesthetically pleasing.

Line 13: “Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,”

In this line, the poet continues the theme of sorrow or mourning associated with his mistress’s eyes. He suggests that their expression of sorrow is in harmony with their inherent beauty, reinforcing the idea that beauty can encompass a range of emotions and experiences.

Line 14: “That every tongue says beauty should look so.”

The sonnet concludes with the assertion that society’s collective opinion determines what beauty should be. The phrase “every tongue says” implies the pervasive influence of societal expectations. It suggests that despite the unique beauty of the poet’s mistress, there is still pressure to conform to prevailing standards.

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The theme of beauty and time in Sonnet 127

The theme of beauty and time is a prominent one in Sonnet 127. In the fifth line, Shakespeare writes, “For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,” which suggests that time has the power to change everything, including beauty. The poet is saying that as time passes, beauty fades, and that this is a natural part of life. However, he also suggests that the beauty of the dark lady is timeless, and that it will endure long after her physical beauty has faded.

The next two lines of Sonnet 127 continue this theme. “Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,” Shakespeare writes. Here, he is suggesting that society uses makeup and other artificial means to enhance beauty, but that this is false and temporary. The poet is saying that true beauty comes from within, and that it cannot be artificially created or sustained.

The use of metaphors and imagery in Sonnet 127

Throughout Sonnet 127, Shakespeare employs metaphors and imagery to convey his message. In the eighth line, he writes, “And Time that gave doth now his gift confound,” which suggests that time, which once gave beauty, is now taking it away. This metaphorical use of time as a giver and taker of beauty is a powerful one.

The next two lines of Sonnet 127 continue this theme of time. “Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth, And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,” Shakespeare writes. Here, he is suggesting that time destroys the beauty of youth, and that it leaves its mark on everyone, even the most beautiful. The use of the word “transfix” is particularly striking, as it suggests that time pierces through the beauty of youth like a sharp object.

The significance of the final couplet in Sonnet 127

The final couplet of Sonnet 127 is particularly noteworthy. “For never-resting time leads summer on, To hideous winter and confounds him there,” Shakespeare writes. Here, he is saying that time is relentless, and that it leads all things to their ultimate demise. The use of the word “hideous” to describe winter is striking, as it suggests that the end of all things is not a peaceful or beautiful one.

However, the final couplet of Sonnet 127 also offers a glimmer of hope. “Sap checked with frost, and lusty leaves quite gone, Beauty o’er-snowed and bareness everywhere: Then were not summer’s distillation left, A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass, Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft, Nor it nor no remembrance what it was: But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet, Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.” Here, Shakespeare is suggesting that while beauty may fade, its essence remains. The beauty of the dark lady may be over-snowed and bare, but it still exists in its essence. The final couplet of Sonnet 127 is a powerful reminder that while all things must come to an end, their essence remains eternal.

Comparison of Sonnet 127 to other Shakespearean sonnets

Sonnet 127 is just one of many sonnets written by Shakespeare. However, it stands out for its unique themes and imagery. For example, Sonnet 18 is perhaps the most famous of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and it also deals with the theme of beauty and time. However, Sonnet 18 is more focused on the idea that beauty can be preserved through poetry, whereas Sonnet 127 suggests that the essence of beauty remains even after physical beauty fades.

Another sonnet that shares some similarities with Sonnet 127 is Sonnet 130. This sonnet also deals with the theme of beauty, but it takes a more satirical approach. In Sonnet 130, Shakespeare pokes fun at the traditional ideals of beauty, suggesting that his mistress is not conventionally beautiful, but that he loves her nonetheless. While Sonnet 130 and Sonnet 127 have different tones and messages, they both challenge the societal norms of their time and suggest that beauty is subjective.

The historical context behind Sonnet 127

Sonnet 127 was written in the late 16th century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. At this time, fair skin was highly prized, and dark skin was often associated with negative qualities. However, Shakespeare challenges this notion in Sonnet 127, suggesting that dark beauty is just as desirable as fair beauty. The sonnet can be seen as a commentary on the societal norms of the time, and an expression of the poet’s desire to challenge those norms.

The literary significance of Sonnet 127

Sonnet 127 is a significant work of literature for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a beautiful and powerful poem that continues to move and inspire readers today. Secondly, it is a commentary on the societal norms of the time, and a challenge to those norms. Finally, it is a reminder that true beauty comes from within, and that it cannot be defined by outward appearances.

The enduring appeal of Sonnet 127

Sonnet 127 has endured for centuries, and continues to be read and admired today. Its enduring appeal lies in its timeless themes of beauty, time, and the human experience. The sonnet speaks to us on a deep and emotional level, reminding us of the beauty that exists in the world, and the fleeting nature of all things.

Conclusion: The lasting power of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 127

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 127 is a powerful and beautiful work of literature that continues to resonate with readers today. Through its use of metaphors, imagery, and symbolism, the sonnet explores the themes of beauty, time, and the human experience. It challenges the societal norms of its time, and reminds us that true beauty comes from within. Sonnet 127 is a testament to the enduring power of Shakespeare’s poetry, and a reminder of the timeless nature of great literature.



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