Skip to content

wine that tastes of margarine

May 7, 2012

Reading Don Paterson’s excellent commentary on Shakespeare’s sonnets, I note that the line ‘Than in the breath that sometimes from her reeks’ in Sonnet 130 (‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’),  was originally not quite as bad as it now sounds. I do agree with Don Paterson’s verdict that the sonnet does not quite come off – the turn is too little, too late, and does not compensate for the deliberate dispraise of the first 12 lines – but reeks makes it seem worse than it was. The word did not mean ‘stinks’ as it does today. It simply meant ’emanates’.

It’s annoying when words change their meaning in such a way as to spoil poetry. The most egregious example I know is from Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale’: ‘Oh for a draft of vintage that hath been/ Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth/ Tasting of Flora and the country green/ Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth…’ Once it meant that the wine tasted of flowers. Now it means that it tastes of margarine. The marketing person who named that marge should be shot.

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: