Verse > Anthologies > Hunt and Lee, eds. > The Book of the Sonnet
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Hunt and Lee, comps.  The Book of the Sonnet.  1867.
 
III. To His Lady upon Her Playing on the Virginals
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
HOW oft when thou, my music, music play’st
Upon that blesséd wood, whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that my ear confounds,
Do I envỳ those jacks, that nimble leap        5
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,        10
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more blest than living lips:
  Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
  Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss. 1
 
Note 1. This is not one of Shakespeare’s best sonnets; but, as he is found interesting under any circumstances that present him to the imagination, I thought the reader might like to see him in a lady’s company while she was playing on the musical instrument that was the prototype of the wooden piano-forte. To find him thus situated seems like the next thing to having him with us to tea, or criticising the last new sonata.
  The term “jack,” since confined to that hidden portion of the key which strikes upon the wires or strings of this kind of instrument, appears in Shakespeare’s time to have been applied to the whole of it. “Saucy jack,” here pleasantly turned into a pun upon the keys, was a common term for a presumptuous fellow.
  Had an Italian poet translated this sonnet, the language of his musical country would have supplied him with a term for the keys much more appropriate than either,—tasti or tasterelle,—“little tasters.” Such is the sensitive Italian tongue. But how good is
  “The tender inward of thy hand”!
and how well Shakespeare has described a “slow movement” in the line
  “O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait”!
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