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Shakespeare Sonnet 83: "I never saw that you did painting need"

Updated on October 6, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Shakespeare Sonnet Titles in My Article Titles

The Shakespeare Sonnet sequence does not feature titles for each sonnet; therefore, each sonnet's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel:

"When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text."

APA does not address this issue.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford


Introduction and Text of Sonnet 83: "I never saw that you did painting need"

In sonnet 83, this gifted speaker asserts his desire to remain a humble servant of truth. His desire to offer only beauty that bespeaks sincere love will guide him to create honest art.

This speaker is aware that many artists turn to flattering language to fill their poems with tinsel and tinker.

This speaker/poet dramatizes the nature of a humble heart that is aware of its gifts but he remains insistent that he will use his considerable gifts to create only works that represent truth and beauty.

This speaker seems to be taking a vow or making a pact with his readers that his works will always strive to represent only the most profound subjects. He will reveal his subjects in their own brilliant light and not add glitter to falsely enhance them.

This poet/speaker knows that he possesses to ability to accomplish all of his worthy goals for his writing because he knows how deeply he loves his art as well as the love, truth, and beauty he seeks for his life.

I never saw that you did painting need

I never saw that you did painting need
And therefore to your fair no painting set;
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
That barren tender of a poet’s debt:
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself, being extant, well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.
This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb;
For I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life, and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.

Reading of Sonnet 83

First Quatrain: "I never saw that you did painting need"

Once again, addressing his poetry, the speaker/poet avers that he has never engaged in mere cosmetic dressing for his poems. He has always believed that his subjects of love, beauty, and truth provide the profundity that his creations need.

This speaker believes that he poet owes a debt to his audience, and this speaker vows that he will always pay that debt.

Unlike many superficial poets, this poet/speaker will not condescend to use poetic devices such as metaphor, simile, and image for mere window dressing. His work will always reflect his dedication to heartfelt art produced by a genuinely workable method.

Second Quatrain: "And therefore have I slept in your report"

The "modern" way always brings with it some shallow writers who depend on disingenuousness and cosmetic touches to make their poetry appear original, even as it merely shows pretension and conformity.

Such a situation can be seen in poets who become critics in order to make a case for their own poetry.

These artists behave like adolescents, who must change their style out of an ignorant rebellion and an immature attempt to belong to something they do not completely understand.

Instead of studying the nature of love, beauty, spirituality, and truth, they are content to dabble in "worth[less]" pursuits.

Third Quatrain: "This silence for my sin you did impute"

The poem may seem to impart "silence for my sin," but for those speakers, who limit their intentions to base instincts, this speaker understands that they "impair not beauty being mute."

This sincere speaker's own poems will sing with "life," while the superficial will "bring a tomb."

The speaker’s passion for life will live in his works because he has struggled to maintain his integrity, while paying homage to his own considerable talents.

The repetition of his subjects will not be taken as "dumb" but will "be most my glory."

The Couplet: "There lives more life in one of your fair eyes"

The poet/speaker declares that his own poetry, because of the profound history, philosophy, and spirituality he has struggled to place in it, will contain "more life" than that of any two less honest poets.

The speaker takes such honor for himself only in that he has been able to assist his own poems into creation.

This speaker's humility can be achieved by the very talent that could, in a less realized poet, give rise to a presumptuous pride.


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