Poem Activity

British Library

X

How oft when thou, my music, music play’st…

X

Poem Activity

Have fun with the poem by trying this...

This sonnet, unusually within the collection, focuses upon a specific, physical scene. The Dark Lady is seen playing the virginal, a keyboard instrument similar to a harpsichord. The ‘conceit’ or extended metaphor used by Shakespeare here centres on the connection between the woman’s ‘sweet fingers’ and the ‘blessed wood’ of the keyboard. Many commentators have suggested that the sonnet is laden with sexual innuendo. What do you think? ‘Jacks’ by the way are pieces of wood within the virginal but, perhaps, ‘saucy jacks’ could be a reference to the poet’s sexual rivals.

X
Modern English Original spelling

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Links Off

How oft when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!

To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless’d than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

HOw oft when thou my musike musike playst,
Vpon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently swayst,
The wiry concord that mine eare confounds,
Do I enuie those Iackes that nimble leape,
To kisse the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poore lips which should that haruest reape,
At the woods bouldnes by thee blushing stand.
To be so tikled they would change their state,
And situation with those dancing chips,
Ore whome thy fingers walke with gentle gate,
Making dead wood more blest then liuing lips,
Since sausie Iackes so happy are in this,
Giue them thy fingers, me thy lips to kisse.