Well, I’m going to do something that will probably be frowned at, and go classic for this final poem of this series. Yep, that’s right, I’m going to look at Shakespeare, specifically at Sonnet 130, my favorite of his. I think I like Sonnet 130 so much because I, like Shakespeare, am frustrated at the pointless hyperbole in love poetry, both in his time, and today. This poem says, let’s get serious and talk about reality. Reality is better than hyperbole, even when it is, as always, worse-seeming.
In one sense, this poem doesn’t have to be very original, since it simple takes the clichés of the time and deflates them, the entire poem almost seems to rest in the last two lines, the closing couplet. It is of course filled with many things that are considered no-nos in modern verse: archaism (not so at the time perhaps), clichés, unrelentingly end-stopped lines, inversions for meter’s sake, etc. The question that I ask myself is whether we simply accept these supposed flaws as relics of the time period and culture and ignore them in looking at Shakespeare’s poetry, or whether we still consider them flaws but opine that Shakespeare’s verse is so piercingly poignant that it overcomes these flaws to succeed despite them, or whether we decide that Shakespeare’s poetry really wasn’t all that good because of all these flaws (though of course we don’t dismiss his drama in the same way thus allowing ourselves to still claim we admire his “work”), or what? The answer, I think, lies somewhere in the middle. There is a happy medium I think, where we say that it is partly simply an acceptance of his culture, partly that these “flaws” may not be quite so insurmountable defects as is made out (that is to say that in a century or so, the trend toward anti-archaism, anti-endstopping, anti-meter, anti-rhyme may have reversed itself, though I doubt I could convince anyone on the modern poetics scene of this possibility), and partly that even the greatest poets are not perfect nor is their work, no matter how canonical.
Some of the things that I like best about 130 besides the ending, are the matter of fact tone, in statements like “I grant I never saw a goddess go,” and “breath that from my mistress reeks.” I like the foretaste in the third quatrain that we are not going to be left depressed. The speaker tells us “I love to hear her speak” even while admitting that there isn’t any music in it. And of course I get tingles when I hear “And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,/ as any [. . .]”