I remember reading the section of the Romantic Era in my literature book during highschool, and there was never a section I enjoyed more. I would read out loud with such passion, and always got chosen to loudly recite the readings.
This piece was one of my favorites. I absolutely loved his satiric style and the mimicry used. Here, he's making fun of how the poets of his age would describe women as having "eyes like the sun, lips so red, breasts so white, rosy red cheeks and etc."
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.
And this, I thought, was one of his most romantic (as well as one his most famous):
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
Finally, this is one of his most famous pieces as well. He speaks of death, the metaphorical death of youth and passion not the literal one of body (symbolized in "black night"). He talks about aging in the beginning (yellow leaves and etc.) then goes into the fact that his young friend fears the death of his youth. It might seem depressing, and it is; yet I see it as pure genius as well:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
These three poems are by far my favorite Shakespearean ones. What's amusing about them is that they all tackle simple topics (making fun of exaggerations; romanticism and aging) and are crafted in a beautiful and magnificient way.
Breaking the Chains:
"While thou livest keep a good tongue in thy head."
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."