Dear Readers of this Blog (both of you),
Nothing Like the Sun has fallen silent lately, but only because its Onlie Begetter has been intensely busy with actual work. However, in a moment of idleness the OB was thinking (to the amazement of Mrs OB), and wondered why Nothing Like the Sun was the name of the Blog.
Well: partly because it’s nothing like The Sun: no bikini-clad lovelies, no sports coverage (yet), less frothing of the mouth…but also because of Sonnet 130:
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
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 damask’d, 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.
This subtle poem is full of misgivings: how lovely is the mistress really? Would she prefer to be flattered, and how will she respond to the show of sincerity? Is the show of sincerity sincere (you are the most wonderful being, more than words can say?)? If words can’t say it, why use them? We are within sight of the relentless truth-teller Cordelia (‘Love, and be silent’): and non-flattery got her nowhere.
We use the word ‘unflattering’ to mean something less than merely veridical – it’s a put-down word. But this poem is all about being unflattering, from the point of view of the flatterer and the flatteree.
There’s comedy, too, in the reversal of expectation: but how will the beloved take to having the piss taken about her looks and even her breath? What kind of thanks would she give?
The couplet that follows 12 lines of virtuoso irony is flat, and ‘by heaven’ sounds like its trying just a bit too hard – another betrayal? I don’t believe the pious affirmation any more than what precedes it. The poem eats itself, but virtuosity is its own reward.
This gives the obvious background to a dry blog about legal affairs (matters of law, not of the heart): though the legal process can be binary in its final decisions – win/lose – the dialectical processes that get us to the decision are (should be) full of subtlety, irony, and nuance. Those are what interest me.
A world without subtlety, irony, nuance is the world of the Caliphate: you are with us, or you are dead.