In Competition No. 3127 you were invited to submit Shakespeare’s newly discovered ‘Woeful ballad to his mistress’ eyebrows’, as referred to by Jaques in As You Like It (‘And then the lover,/ Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad/ Made to his mistress’ eyebrow…’). For the purposes of this challenge, a ballad could be any sort of poem (most of you wrote sonnets) and anachronisms were allowed. The prizewinners, in another fiercely contested week, take £20.
What blessing crowns thy outward loveliness?
A coiffed, enrapturing head of sable hair
That blazes rank above the common press.
Yet there is hair invisible elsewhere.
Those secret, curling wisps that underlie
Thy gorgeous panoply of silk and lace
Intemperately appear to my mind’s eye,
Prompting low stirrings in another place.
Then as I spur my mind to higher things,
I worship at thy temple, where twin arcs,
As softly supple as the downy wings
Of fledgling finches, flaunt the swooping marks
Of grace and beauty both. Thereon I dwell,
Love’s prisoner in his chaste, adoring cell.
Suave eyebrow, can’t you guess how much I suffer?
Last evening your sweet owner heard me praised,
And straight away I saw you archly raised,
Implying I’m the merest twerp or duffer.
Then later, when I tried to hint I care,
You and your lovely twin slid swiftly down
To darkly shape a grim excluding frown,
Then, sloping nosewards, framed a hostile stare.
And yet, the more I’m shunned, the more I feel
A mighty love for eyebrows so expressive,
The more I’m driven by a hope obsessive
That all my dreams one day might be made real
When you and your dear partner rise above
Wide-irised eyes, all open to my love.
My mistris Brows, th’art black as Soot
But ah! thou both be bonny
Though dark as silken Bumbershoot
Thou curvest as the Lyre or Lute
When heartstruck Lovers sing
Each furry as the Bandicoot
Like Caterpillars at a root,
Thou bristle, writhe or loll
And feed like Moss upon yon Fruit
Of Hemp thy thickness, or of Jute
And richest in the Middle
Like a Bruin must I make thy bruit
‘Why gaze thee not into mine eyes,’
Asked she, ‘but on some point above?’
‘In truth,’ said I, ‘I’ll tell no lies,
Thy brows intrigue me more my love.