(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616 / Warwickshire)

When It Comes To Poetry

When it comes to poetry
I feel like David
Before he went out to meet Goliath
Saul offered him his armour
His sword, his breast plate
His helmet, his shield
But in the end he refused
Saying he had not proved it
For he was but a shepherd
Not trained in the use
Of weapons of war
He took merely a sling shot
And five smooth stones
But any giant can be slain
By such a crude weapon
If the stone finds its mark
And I can offer
No grand words
No breath-taking imagery
I commend all
Who operate at those lofty heights
But I am just
A simple man
Trying to propel his point
By straight forward means
Along a straight course
Hoping to find the mark.

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Comments (5)

Sonnets 27-30 are fairly meditative and quiet, exploring the traditional themes of sleeplessness, separation, bad fortune and sorrowful reminiscense. Here the poet reflects on how thoughts of the beloved keep him awake, and even in darkness the image floats before him, like a jewel hung in ghastly night, making the face of night beautiful. Thus by day the poet is made weary by toil and travel, and by night rest is denied him, for he has to make journeys in his mind to attend on the loved one, who is far away. shakespeares-sonnets.com/
This is the traditional theme of the sonneteers, echoing Sidney and others, who recount how they were stricken by being separated from their beloved. See for example the sonnet from Astrophel and Stella given at the bottom of this page. No doubt Shakespeare was conscious of these references to other loves in other circumstances, and one suspects that part of the richness of his own sonnet writing is that he is gently poking fun at all that has been written before on the theme of the haggard lover's wakeful weariness.
1. Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed, The toil is either daily work, or the toil of travel, mentioned in the following line. travel, l.2, was frequently spelt travail, and there was little differentiation between the two words. 2. The dear repose for limbs with travel tired; This seems to imply a journey, as also do 48,50 and 51. The end of the journey would, as often as not, be a bed at an Inn. Travel was not easy, over roads full of potholes, crumbling bridges, and with the possibility of robbery being not too remote. The only practicable form of transport was on horseback, as sonnets 50 & 51 show. Here a similar journey away from the youth seems to be described. 3. But then begins a journey in my head I.e. a mental journey to visit his beloved, now that the physical journey of the day is completed. 4. To work my mind, when body's work's expired: To work my mind = which keeps my mind active and toiling, when body's work's expired = when bodily toil is completed. 5. For then my thoughts- from far where I abide- from far where I abide = far away from you, from where I am staying currently 6. Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee, Intend a zealous pilgrimage = start off on a journey. To intend a journey, meaning to commence or undertake a journey, was common parlance, deriving ultimately from Latin iter intendere. Pilgrimages were undertaken by the faithful in Shakespeare's day as acts of devotion, involving long and tedious travelling, often on foot, or horseback, for several weeks, to visit some holy shrine. Chaucer's pilgrims in the Canterbury tales were on horseback, but their journey was to take many days. There is nothing which corresponds to the experience in today's world of easy travel, and for Shakespeare's contemporary readers a zealous pilgrimage was a work of devotion lasting several weeks or months. zealous = earnest, passionate, devoted.
7. And keep my drooping eyelids open wide, drooping eyelids = eyelids heavy with sleep. 8. Looking on darkness which the blind do see: His thoughts, travelling to his beloved, keep his eyes wide open, although they are tired (drooping) , and he sees the darkness, as if he were a blind man, who sees only darkness. 9. Save that my soul's imaginary sight Save that = Except that; my soul's imaginary sight = the inner vision which my soul has, by using imagination. 10. Presents thy shadow to my sightless view, Presents thy shadow = Sets in front of me your image. For shadow = image compare Sonn 43.4-5: Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright, How would thy shadow's form form happy show, where shadow is used in several different senses (image, shadow, shade, examples) . my sightless view continues the imagery of the blind man, darkness, and lack of vision. The blind man's sightless view manages to see things because of the additional acuteness of the other senses that a blind person develops. The poet here sees nothing real, because of the night's blackness, but his imagination conjures up the image of the beloved to his eyes. 11. Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night, which - i.e. your shadow. a jewel etc. - the contrast is between the brightness of a diamond, or any other rich jewel, and the blackness of unseeing night. ghastly night - night traditionally has some pejorative epithet attached to it. It was the time when evil deeds were most often done, the time when ghosts walked, and it was the colour of hell. Cf. Lady Macbeth's words, when contemplating murder: Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry 'Hold, hold! ' Mac.I.5.47-51. 12. Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new. Night's face is old because night is as old as the world itself, even older according to Genesis I.4-5,10. 13. Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind, Lo! thus = So it is that, as I have shown, etc. Lo has a mild exclamatory force, equivalent to 'Behold! ', 'Look now! '. 14. For thee, and for myself, no quiet find. For thee, and for myself - i.e. for both of us, because we are two hearts in one. Also, my thoughts, in visiting you, must cause you too to be awake.
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