dichroic: (reading)
Not much of a mystery, though, and not much of an experiment. Back in my high school days, I voluntarily memorized Sonnet 130:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.


It was one of several in our text, and we weren't made to memorize any of them; I just liked it. It amuses me, and it's always seemed to me to be the perfect sonnet for a logical mind. It totally flouts all the overblown conventions of poetry, then says "She's human and I love her anyway and by the way you're all lying when you claim how wonderful your girlfriends are." The Three Laws came up because we saw a bit of the movie I, Robot (which doesn't seem to have anything *but* the Three Laws in common with the books. Knowing them - being familiar with / fond of Asimov's fiction - seemed like a good marker for the sort of un-flowery logical mind I was thinking of.

Results; Between the piffle list and LiveJournal, I got 22 responses that seemed to me to satisfy both of my conditions. Of those, 9 did in fact list #130 as one of the sonnets they knew. That's far outside the boundaries of coincidence, but unfortunately it proves absolutely nothing because there are so many confounding factors. Incidentally, a few other sonnets rated quite a few mentions:

#18, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day", 5 mentions
#29, "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes", 9 mentions also
#116, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds", 9 mentions

Confounding factors: English teachers! Apparently a lot of people were made to memorize Sonnet 130 (and possibly #29, though fewer people mentioned it specifically in that context). Now if you have to memorize ten sonnets and remember one, then I think it's fair to assume that one made an impression, but if you only have to memorize one, then its appeal is moot. I didn't pose the question in a way that weeded out forced learning. (Oops.) Also, a lot of people know #116 because it's used in a lot of weddings. More than 5 people actually mentioned #18, but in those cases it was less in the context of knowing the sonnet, more about knowing the first line and making fun of it. Not surprising, since it may be the most famous of all of them.

Still, I think the results indicate that these sonnets do have more appeal to the population I polled. They are certainly among the most famous ones. Whether they appeal to this population as distinct from the wider population of those who are familiar with the sonnets but not necessarily with the Three Laws can't be determined without a controlled experiment. We know they do appeal to the general population - that's how they *got* so famous. However, others equally well-known got many fewer mentions. My point is far from proven - but I'd say the evidence at least points that way. Now, #18's got fame, #116 has weddings - so now I just need to figure out what the appeal is of #29 to the logical mind!
dichroic: (Default)
I have a theory that a certain type of geekish mind is likely to be most attracted to a certain one of Shakespeare's sonnets. (This is based on no data but a sample of one.) The problem is that to test my hypothesis, I need a sampling of people whom I suspect are fairly rare in the general populations, of said geekish type who also know
their Shakespeare.

So, two qualifications: first, I need people who know the Three Laws of Robotics by heart. I need to winnow that group even further, to those who know one or more Shakespeare sonnets by heart. If you fit my rarified group, please tell me: which of the sonnets do you also know by heart?

I've already posted on the piffle discussion list (a Yahoogroup), where of eight responders so far who know or at least are very familliar with both the Three Laws and the sonnets, 2 (so 25%) have mentioned the sonnet I had in mind. However, two others have been mentioned three times, and one has been mentioned four! I'll let it run another day or to then post results in both places.

Two notes:
1. For "know by heart" I'm not being strict. "Know well enough to get mostly right" will do, and so will "used to know". There will be no quiz.
2. Why yes, I was drinking wine while pondering this idea. Why do you ask?

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