While looking for a poem to discuss today I perused Ogden Nash, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Shel Silverstein, but I settled on a familiar sonnet by William Shakespeare in which he pokes fun at his contemporaries’ hyperbolic love poems.
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 by wires, black wires grow on her head….And in some perfumes is there more delight/Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks….
Often in romance novels the hero is the strongest and best, his greatest physical flaw a craggy masculinity. The heroine is petite perfection, yet luscious, with flowing tresses. (Before you yell at me, I know this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the heroine has spiky hair and kicks ass and takes names. I’ve also read occasionally of plump heroines and paralyzed heros.)
More often, the protagonists sport enough emotional baggage to put the airlines in the black, and their difficulties are resolved in a surprisingly short time. (But hey, romance is fantasy, okay? Very nearly allegory. No one argues that Goldilocks couldn’t really have eaten the three bears porridge because bears can’t cook.)
The point, obviously, is that perfection isn’t a prerequisite for love. But even with Bill’s acknowledgment of his mistress’ human frailty, he concludes:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/As any she belied with false compare.
And that’s the message that all good romance novels convey: that love forgives our imperfections.
What do you think?