How can we compare and constrast Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare and "Delight in disorder" by Robert Herrick?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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These are two excellent poems to compare and contrast, and both in a way address the theme of appearance vs. reality. Sonnet 130 is a satirical attack on the fashionable, exaggerated metaphors that were very popular at the time that describes the women they loved as if they were idealised goddesses who were perfect in every way. These conceits had become very tiresome and outmoded by the time Shakespeare wrote this sonnet. Thus Shakespeare's sonnet sets out to prove that his "mistress" is all too mortal by comparing her unfavourably to these conceits:

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound.

I grant I never saw a goddess go,

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

Again and again Shakespeare stresses the human characteristics of his mistress. She is not some kind of divine demi-god gracing earth, but a normal human being, with bad breath and normal eyes that do not resemble the sun. However, in spite of her normal beauty, Shakespeare still loves her just as much, if not more, because of her normal appearance:

And yet, by Heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

Shakespeare's love for this woman is just as fervent, if not more so, because he has an accurate impression of her.

In "Delight in disorder," the speaker takes great joy in "the wild civility" of his mistress. Although it is obvious that her appearance is far from perfect, as the references to "the tempestuous petticoat" and the "sweet disorder" in her dress makes clear, yet the poem ends, just like Sonnet 130, with an affirmation of the speaker's love for this woman in spite of her appearance:

Do more bewitch me than when art

Is too precise in every part.

Both poems stress that reality is far more attractive and alluring than perfection, and suggest that the love that the speakers have for their mistresses is actually purer and better because of the very real impression and image they have of their mistresses.

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