Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find.
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.
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.
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