(Poem #943) So is it not with me as with that Muse (Sonnets XXI)
So is it not with me as with that Muse Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse, Who heaven itself for ornament doth use And every fair with his fair doth rehearse Making a couplement of proud compare With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems, With April's first-born flowers and all things rare That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems. O let me true in love but truly write, And then believe me: my love is as fair As any mother's child, though not so bright As those gold candles fixed in heaven's air: Let them say more that like of hearsay well; I will not praise, that purpose not to sell.
[Glossary] 1. "that Muse": metonym for "the poet inspired by that Muse". 5. "couplement": the act (or fact) of coupling. 2. "this huge rondure": this great sphere of earth and heaven, from Fr. "rondeur". [Commentary] One thing I'm always struck by while reading the Sonnets is the confidence of Shakespeare's opening lines. They're not always "poetic" in the traditional sense; indeed, they often seem exactly the opposite, using inverted syntax and unusual images to capture the reader's attention . This, it goes without saying, is a high-risk approach; fortunately, Shakespeare is, well, Shakespeare, and carries it off with the utmost of ease. He sets never a foot  wrong; his tone is calm and utterly assured, while retaining a depth of feeling, an immediacy which reaches out over the centuries to touch readers even today. Today's poem is (in a neat little bit of self-reference) about the Sonnets themselves. It "rejects the conceits of poets who habitually make extravagant comparisons with stars, jewels and flowers, in favour of truthful (and private?) cogency" . The obvious parallel is, of course, Sonnet CXXX, "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" (Minstrels Poem #44), but the methods used in the two poems are sufficiently disparate for (the less-celebrated) Sonnet XXI to possess a distinct character of its own. Note especially the the interplay of language and meaning: when describing the poetry of bad sonneteers, Shakespeare rather self-consciously uses pretentious words like "couplement" and "rondure" ; when it comes time to describe his own, more down-to-earth feelings for his beloved, he is content with everday phrases like "any mother's child". Self-reference within self-reference - yum! thomas.  See, for instance, the titles of the Sonnets that we've run on the Minstrels.  Pun fully intended :)  Katherine Duncan-Jones, in the third Arden edition of the Sonnets - a recent (and highly recommended) addition to my library.  Ms Duncan-Jones informs me that this word appears nowhere else in Shakespeare's oeuvre .  I've always wanted to use that word - oeuvre - in a Minstrels commentary :) [Minstrels Links] The Sonnets: Poem #44, My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnets CXXX) Poem #71, Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnets XVIII) Poem #219, Full many a glorious morning have I seen (Sonnets XXXIII) Poem #363, Let me not to the marriage of true minds (Sonnet CXVI) Poem #808, Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck (Sonnets XIV) Poem #943, So is it not with me as with that Muse (Sonnets XXI)