Sonnet Cxxxii

Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,
Have put on black and loving mourners be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.
And truly not the morning sun of heaven
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even
Doth half that glory to the sober west,
As those two mourning eyes become thy face:
O, let it then as well beseem thy heart
To mourn for me, since mourning doth thee grace,
And suit thy pity like in every part.
Then will I swear beauty herself is black
And all they foul that thy complexion lack.

by William Shakespeare

Comments (5)

This sonnet takes up again the theme of 127, that his mistress's eyes, being black, seem to be in mourning. But whereas in the earlier sonnet they seemed to be mourning for the fact that most beauty was feigned, concocted and cosmetic, now they are pitying the poet himself, but for what is never quite made clear.
Traditionally the Petrarchan sonneteer bewailed the fact that his mistress was cold and aloof and refused to respond to his amorous advances. Therefore he was forever desirous of pity for being sexually unsatisfied, although he would never state the matter quite so crudely. Take for example Sidney's Sonnet 77 to Stella, in which he remarks that her looks, her face, her presence, her hand, her lips, her skin, her voice and her sweet conversation, if he is rightly minded, are sufficient to make him fully blest. Yet he acknowledges that something is perhaps lacking, about which he coyly states Yet ah! My maiden Muse doth blush to tell the rest. A&S.77. and one is left to guess the full meaning.
In the context of what follows in sonnets 133 & 134, in which the poet implies that his friend has been hooked by this Siren mistress, and that he himself is betrayed, the pity might be required simply because he, the poet, has been put on one side. But in 135 & 136, the main theme of which seems to be sexual intercourse and the fact that he is not getting enough of it, the pity would seem to be required as consolation for his never ending frustrations, and is a more conventional request in the Petrarchan or Sidneyan tradition. There is probably a partial element of satire in all this, a satire of the sonnet tradition and of beauty's comparisons (the sun, the evening star etc.) . The poet will not declare why the pity is needed, but he enjoys the twist in the end, that the beauty who is denying him all this is both black and not black, fair and not fair, foul and not foul, wicked and not wicked, all at the same time.
Most of the dark lady sonnets work simultaneously on a number of different levels. This one glides easily between the worlds of visual description, sexual innuendo, moral criticism, emotional entanglement and social commentary, without firmly setting a foot in any one of them. In the notes below I have tried to indicate what appear to be the primary meanings, but the nature of the thing is such that no commentary can fully do it justice.
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