This sonnet plays with poetic conventions in which, for example, the mistress’s eyes are compared with the sun, her lips with coral, and her cheeks with roses. His mistress, says the poet, is nothing like this conventional image, but is as lovely as any woman.
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; 4If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight 8Than 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; 12My 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.