Sonnet 141: In Faith, I Do Not Love Thee With Mine Eyes

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who in despite of view is pleased to dote.
Nor are mine cars with thy tongue's tune delighted,
Nor tender feeling to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone;
But my five wits, nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unswayed the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart's slave and vassal wretch to be.
Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

by William Shakespeare

Comments (8)

Superb and fantastic poem
There seems to be a misprint here. In line five shouldn't the word be 'ears' instead of 'cars'?
***** In this sonnet, the poet runs through a catalogue of the senses, to see what it is that attracts him to his mistress. In fact he finds nothing, and therefore concludes that it must be some perverseness in his heart that forces him to love her and to be her slave. His reward is that she gives him penances for the sin he is committing in loving her. *****
The poem is thought to rely heavily on 'The Banquet of the Senses', an allegorical story based on Ovid. But it has other antecedents as well, and one should not overlook the fact that it is almost a continuation sonnet to 130, ''My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun''; for in that sonnet the appeal is made to the senses of sight (colour of lips, teeth, flesh etc.) , hearing (the sound of her voice) , smell (reek of her breath) , and possibly taste (lips) , none of which are enraptured by what they find. There are also other examples in the literature which run through a similar catalogue of the senses, and I have included a sonnet below by William Smith. It is much more conventional than this one of Shakespeare's, in that the beloved has all the beauteous characteristics expected, for, even though they are not detailed, they are such as to give him exquisite pleasure, and the amber breath and crystal eyes stand in place of the usual coral, snow, pearls, ivory and gold with which Venus had bedecked the beloved. I have also included a short extract from Barnabe Barnes's Parthenophil and Parthenophe which I take to be relevant.
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