Summary and Analysis Sonnet 131


The poet further discusses his mistress’s unattractive appearance. The first quatrain continues the previous sonnet’s ending thought, that the Dark Lady is “the fairest and most precious jewel.” However, after these opening four lines, the poet then acknowledges that to other people the Dark Lady’s appearance is anything but lovely. Surprisingly, after the first quatrain, in which the poet speaks most assuredly about his love for his mistress, now he is unwilling to defend her publicly against slanderous remarks about her appearance. Speaking of those persons who hold that the Dark Lady “hath not the power to make love groan,” the poet shies away from supporting her: “To say they [libelers] err I dare not be so bold, / Although I swear it to myself alone.” He appears satisfied that his loving her privately is more important than what anyone else might think: “Thy black is fairest in my judgment’s place.” As the sonnet’s last two lines make clear, to him only her deeds are black, in the sense of darkly malevolent. Despite his awareness of her low moral character, the poet remains infatuated with her. Line 14 shows his unwillingness to criticize her moral faults.