Shakespeare’s Sonnet 27 is easy to enjoy


Shakespeare: many think he is the greatest poet who ever lived, and many simply do not understand what he writes. Silent majority: I offer you the chance to discover the beauty of Shakespeare without the suffering of incomprehension.

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed, The dear repose for limbs with travail 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.

The “travail” mentioned in the second line can at the same time mean travel or painful and laborious work. How unappealing it must have been to travel in Shakespeare’s time when these two words were used interchangeably. The dear repose (line 3) must have been at a tavern after a long day on horseback or in a horse-drawn carriage in the days where a hole in the ground and streets were impossible to differentiate. Beds in those times were an affair of pests and straw sacks, barely the repose expected for composing sonnets or amorous enterprise.

Not surprisingly, Shakespeare in love cannot fall asleep. “Drooping eyelids open wide” he thinks of her or him, envious of the blind who see in the darkness where he sees nothing; far from home and left behind (“ from far where I abide”).

Then he groans that only his imagination makes the dark night beautiful by recalling his or her shadow. Shadow means image, an idea that the word photography, painting with light, reminds us of. However, at night he is dejected, and during the day, his bones ache. He finishes with the grievance that he cannot find quiet neither for him nor for his love.

Some call this Sonnet meditative and calm. (To me it rather seemsdepressed.) With the miracles of contemporary civilization: air conditioned vehicles, glossy public roads, hygienic bed sheets, no insects crawling in bed, spring mattresses, hot water, Aspirin and sleeping pills, I am convinced that Shakespeare would have not equaled travel and pain anymore. On the other hand, he might have written less magnificently. How does Harry Limes in “The Third Man” say:

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed?but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

So, all you confident poets, maybe you must suffer more to write like Shakespeare, or maybe you do not need to suffer at all, since you are no Shakespeare anyway. I am no Shakespeare, but in my comfortable bed, with a full bodied glass of red wine, I hope to get pleasure from poetry and my little unexcited existence.

You can find me wallowing on natural bedding enjoying Shakespeare and palate pleasing pleasures.

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