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Shakespeare's Sonnets - Sonnet 20


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Shakespeare's Sonnets - Sonnet 20
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Sonnet 20



The poet fantasizes that the young man’s beauty is the result of Nature’s changing her mind: she began to create a beautiful woman, fell in love with her own creation, and turned it into a man. The poet, thus deprived of a female sexual partner, concedes that it is women who will receive pleasure and progeny from the young man, but the poet will nevertheless have the young man’s love.

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
4With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
8Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till Nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
12By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
 But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
 Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use their treasure.