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Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. 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.     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare     As any she belied with false compare.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) wrote his sonnets over a period of eight years — between 1593 and 1601. The first published edition of them appeared in 1609 and consisted of 154 poems. The Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains and a final rhymed couplet, all in iambic pentameter, with occasional metrical substitutions. This sonnet, number 130, is one of those addressed to the woman who has come to be known as “the dark lady of the sonnets.” Its clever refusal to follow the poetic convention of typical love poetry, which insists that the speaker’s beloved is more beautiful than anything in the natural world or any other creature who ever lived, gives this poem much of its charm and humor and accounts for it being among Shakespeare’s most admired sonnets.

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