Shakespeare's Sonnets: In the old age black was not counted fair

Sonnet 127

Original Text: 
SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS (London: G. Eld for T. T. and sold by William Aspley, 1609): h3r-h3v.
3But now is black, beauty's successive heir,
4And beauty slander'd with a bastard shame,
6Fairing the foul with art's false borrow'd face,
7Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bow'r,
8But is profan'd, if not lives in disgrace.
9Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black,
11At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
14    That every tongue says beauty should look so.


1] old age] medieval period. fair] beautiful; or light-coloured. Back to Line
2] were] were fair (beautiful). Back to Line
5] each hand hath put on nature's pow'r] i.e., by applying artificial make-up. power Q. Back to Line
10] so suited] appropriately coloured to mourn the disgrace of "Sweet beauty." Back to Line
12] Possibly: (giving) a wrong valuation (of what beauty is) that demeans its (natural, not artificial) occurrence in (God's) creation (nature). Back to Line
13] becoming of] attractive in. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: