To me, faire friend you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyde,
Such seemes your beautie still....
-- Shakespeare, sonnet 104
Tant emploierai de mes yeux le pouvoir,
Pour dessus lui plus de credit avoir,
Qu'en peu de temps ferai grande conquête.
[I will so use the power of my eyes
To have more credit (or honor) over him,
So that shortly I will make a grand conquest.]
-- Louise Labé, sonnet 6
Shakespeare's sonnet 104 presents the fair young man as he was "when first your eye I eyde," a line whose puns mirror the visual model of erotic desire that the Petrarchan love sonnet sequence evolves. So arranging like sounds as to almost undermine meaning, Shakespeare simultaneously recognizes and mocks the self-absorbed poetics he exploits. The eye is both verb and subject of Petrarchism, as is the I. the fictive poet's self-creation in the mirroring eye of his beloved absorbs the beloved into his own "I," so that he "I's"-- or makes the other into himself--as he eyes him. This eying affirms, "ayes," the selfhood of the male poet even as it displays the complexities of that selfhood: self-absorbed, the poem's "I" may himself be absorbed by the other whom he eyes. At the same time, the line also puns on the female anatomy, whose "eye" is the object and aim of heterosexual desire. 1