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Sonnet 17

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Cherry-lipt Adonis in his snowie shape,
    Might not compare with his pure ivorie white,
    On whose faire front a poet’s pen may write,
Whose roseate red excels the crimson grape,
His love-enticing delicate soft limbs,
    Are rarely fram’d t’intrap poore gazine eies:
    His cheeks, the lillie and carnation dies,
With lovely tincture which Apollo’s dims.
His lips ripe strawberries in nectar wet,
    His mouth a Hive, his tongue a hony-combe,
    Where Muses (like bees) make their mansion.
His teeth pure pearle in blushing correll set.
    Oh how can such a body sinne-procuring,
    Be slow to love, and quicke to hate, enduring?

Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (Pearson, 2006)
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Sonnet 17

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  • Richard Barnfield was born in Staffordshire, England. In his youth, Barnfield was deeply influenced by Virgil’s work and the 1591 publication of Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, which popularized the sonnet sequence. Best known for his poem “As it fell upon a day,” Barnfield is the only Elizabethan male poet apart from Shakespeare—whom he admired—to address love poems to a man.

    Little is known about Barnfield’s life and career, but it is thought that his maternal aunt raised him and his sister after his mother died during childbirth. In 1592 he graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford. At the age of 21 he published his first two books, The Affectionate Shepherd (1594) and Cynthia (1595), both addressed to “Ganymede.” Originally published anonymously, The Affectionate Shepherd expands upon Virgil’s second eclogue, and its homoerotic themes made Barnfield’s poems controversial for his time. Just two months after The Affectionate Shepherd, Barnfield published Cynthia,...

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