The three readings for Tuesday—“When I consider how my light is spent”, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”, and “One Word”—are all reflections on self-doubt and also display a sense that perceived beauty and happiness depends on the person. These three works challenge traditional ideas of beauty and present many alternative views on what is truly beautiful.
In “When I consider how my light is spent”, John Milton questions how he can write his poetry even though he went blind four years before writing this poem. He acknowledges “that one talent which is death to hide” and considers whether God would punish him for failing to use it (Milton 3). He realizes in the second half of the poem that God does not worry about such small things, and states “Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best” (Milton 10-11). Essentially, the fact that he has this burden to carry, his blindness, makes him all the more valuable and makes his talents all the more unique and beautiful.
Through a different method, William Shakespeare elucidates a very similar message. Throughout “My mistresses’ eyes are nothing like the sun”, he constantly reinforces the fact that, if physical beauty is what matters, then this woman is not up to standards. He even goes so far as to say, “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head” (Shakespeare 4). He concludes the poem, however, by saying that even with her flaws, he still thinks that she is finer than anyone she could be compared with.
Elizabeth Gilbert gives much of the same message in “One Word”. The popular word in Rome is SEX, but the narrator constantly reinforces that this is not what she thinks about, and that Rome’s idea of beauty is far too glamorous for her. Instead of constantly thinking about sex, she ponders what she considers more important, and spends a great deal of this passage debating what she really does consider important. But one thing remains clear, that Rome’s idea of beauty is certainly not it.
Throughout all of these selections, the main topic remains clear. Ideal beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and superficial beauty often leaves much more meaningful beauty and love untapped.