In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name.
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame.
For since each hand hath put on nature’s pow'r,
Fairing the foul with art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bow'r,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland'ring creation with a false esteem.
Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.
In the olden days, dark complexions weren’t considered attractive or, if they were, no one called them beautiful. But now darkness is officially accepted as beautiful, and the fair complexions that used to be called beautiful have gotten a bad reputation. For since everyone has seized the power to make themselves beautiful (which used to belong to nature), and ugly people can be beautiful by artificial means, no one can legitimately be called beautiful. Beauty has no special home but is commonplace or even lives in disgrace. Therefore my mistress’s eyes are as black as a raven, well suited to today’s fashion, and in their blackness they seem to be lamenting those people who were born ugly but make themselves beautiful, giving beauty a bad name by faking it. But her black eyes lament so beautifully that everyone now says all beautiful eyes should look like hers.