Skip to main content

The Meaning of Glass

A glass dish showing the symbol of Venice
A glass dish showing the symbol of Venice

The rarity of glass from this period is no surprise considering its fragility. A sixteenth-century poet (formerly believed to be William Shakespeare) expounded upon the dual qualities of the material – its beauty and its brittleness.

Beauty is but a vain and doubtful good;
A shining gloss that vadeth suddenly;
A flower that dies when just it gins to bud;
A brittle glass that’s broken presently;
A doubtful good, a gloss, a glass, a flower
Lost, vaded, broken, dead within an hour.

And as goods lost are seld as never found,
As vaded gloss no rubbing will refresh,
As flowers dead lie wither’d on the ground,
As broken glass no cement can redress, So beauty blemish’d once’s for ever lost,
In spite of physic, painting, pain and cost.

The Passionate Pilgrim, 13

Glass also provided the poet with a useful metaphor for the fickle lover:

Fair is my love, but not so fair as fickle;
Mild as a dove, but neither true nor trusty;
Brighter than glass, and yet, as glass is, brittle ...

The Passionate Pilgrim, 7

Other highlight objects you might like

Other pathways and stories you might like

Sign up to our emails

Be the first to hear about our news, exhibitions, events and more…

Sign up