Student Question

Why does the poet in Sonnet 106 say he can't describe his friend's beauty?

Expert Answers

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In "Sonnet 106," the poet lacks the words to describe the beauty of his friend because this individual is so much more gorgeous than anyone who has ever lived that the poet is rendered tongue-tied and speechless. There are no words to adequately describe the friend.

The speaker begins the poems by discussing the way poets of yesteryear—of "antique" times—once described the beauties of now dead knights and ladies, lavishing praise on such features as their feet, lips, eyes, and brows. He says their praises of these lovely people merely prefigure, or foreshadow, the beauty of the current beloved. These former poets could use their lavish words for the current beloved, but even such talents as these poets had would not be enough to do him or her justice. As the speaker writes,

They had not skill enough your worth to sing

The speaker finishes by saying that in this day, he and others have the eyes to behold the beauty of the friend, but also lack the words to adequately express that beauty.

In other words, this is a sonnet about how the poet can't possibly come up with words good enough to describe the astonishing beauty of his beloved friend.

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