A new edition of Shakespeare’s complete works leaves out a poem historically attributed to him. For the ensuing controversy, see Did Shakespeare really write “A Lover’s Complaint”? – By Ron Rosenbaum.
The poem depicts a young woman mourning because she was seduced and abandoned, a poignant subject that shows its author’s moral sensitivity. But the metaphors are over-the-top and the poem is, arguably, ludicrously bad. Here are two stanzas, and you can see for yourself:
Oft did she heave her napkin to her eyne,
Which on it had conceited characters,
Laundering the silken figures in the brine
That season’d woe had pelleted in tears,
And often reading what contents it bears;
As often shrieking undistinguish’d woe,
In clamours of all size, both high and low.
Sometimes her levell’d eyes their carriage ride,
As they did battery to the spheres intend;
Sometime diverted their poor balls are tied
To the orbed earth; sometimes they do extend
Their view right on; anon their gazes lend
To every place at once, and, nowhere fix’d,
The mind and sight distractedly commix’d.
That is to say, she is crying so hard, her tears, with their brine, are laundering her handkerchief. The part about the balls tied to the orbed earth means that her eyes (eyeballs) are looking down.
My take: Historical evidence points to Shakespeare as the author. It appeared in the edition of his sonnets that appeared during his lifetime.
Just because a poem is bad does not mean it was not written by a good writer. Shakespeare, like all good writers, wrote some terrible lines in his day. “Lover’s Complaint” is no worse than “Titus Andronicus.” Writing is a craft, and craftsmen try things that work and things that don’t work, and they learn by doing. There is a lesson here for all vocations.