Table of Contents
“Sonnet 27” is a part of William Shakespeare’s Fair Youth sonnet sequence, a substantial collection of poetry written for an unnamed—but truly very attractive—young man. The first of five poems in which the speaker observes this young man from a distance, it appears rather early in the overall sequence. In particular, “Sonnet 27” explores the obsessive restless side of love and infatuation: the speaker is attempting to go to sleep after an exhausting day, but his thoughts won’t let him sleep. Instead, it is the absence of his beloved that keeps him up at night.
About the poet
Shakespeare, an English playwright, poet, and actor, is regarded as the greatest English-language author and the greatest dramatist in history. Between 1589 and 1613, he wrote the majority of his well-known plays and histories. Up until 1608, the majority of his works were tragedies, like Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. Shakespeare’s plays are performed more frequently than those of any other author because they have been translated into every major living language. His works are still being researched and reexamined. Shakespeare’s posthumous collected work, The First Folio, was published in 1623 by John Heminges and Henry Condell. Ben Jonson’s poem praised Shakespeare as “not of an age, but for all time.”
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:
The speaker conveys his physical exhaustion from a day of work in these lines, as well as his desire for rest. However, he quickly realizes that, as his body relaxes, his mind goes on a new trip of thinking and reflection.
The poem emphasizes the need for relaxation and rejuvenation by contrasting the two types of exhaustion—physical and mental. After a long day, the speaker looks for relief in sleep, highlighting the need for time for rest and rejuvenation. But even when he is sleeping, his mind is still working and reflecting. This underlines the complexity of the human experience because while the body may find rest in sleep, the mind may continue to travel within, battling with unsolved issues, concerns, or creative thoughts. The speaker’s inability to fully disengage from his thoughts is another aspect of the speaker’s restlessness that is highlighted in the poem. This suggests a restless intellect that craves stimulation and participates in intellectual activity even when it is time to relax.
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:
In these lines, the speaker tells how, even though being physically distant, his thoughts make an ardent journey to the subject of his affection. He claims that his ideas allow him to keep his tired eyes open while he stares into the darkness that only the blind can see.
The speaker’s thoughts and feelings are strong and transcend physical boundaries, conveying sincere love and dedication to the person he is referring to. The speaker’s “drooping eyelids” are a metaphor for their weariness or exhaustion, while the metaphor of a “zealous pilgrimage” denotes a sacred trip to the cause of his devotion. He is focused on his ideas, which highlights how intensely he is thinking and how vividly he is imagining things. The metaphorical meaning of the line “Looking on darkness which the blind do see” suggests that the speaker’s ideas and desires are so strong that they can understand and feel things that are not visible to the physical senses. This profound connection illustrates the notion of desire and the transformational power of ideas and emotions, beyond conventional consciousness. These lines illustrate the speaker’s unwavering devotion and all-encompassing adoration.
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.
The speaker describes how, even though he cannot see the person he desires physically, his soul’s imagination casts a shadow of that person in these lines. This fictional presence is compared to a jewel suspended in the night’s darkness, enhancing the beauty of the night and reviving the speaker’s perception. In addition to emphasizing the transformational nature of love, the lines underscore the importance of the mind and imagination in recognizing the presence of the beloved.
The speaker admits that even if he can’t see the person he desires, his imaginative perspective is nonetheless filled with the shadow of that person. The darkness is transformed and made lovely by this imagined presence, which he compares to a jewel hanging there. The speaker’s “soul’s imaginary sight” demonstrates the ability of the mind to make up lifelike images even in the absence of actual sight. The metaphor of the jewel suspended in dreadful night emphasizes the contrasted beauty and light that the speaker’s beloved brings to his or her presence. The speaker’s creative projection of the beloved’s presence enables him to appreciate its beauty and revitalizes his understanding of the outside world, emphasizing the transformational power of love and its profound influence on a person’s inner existence.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind, For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
In these lines, the speaker admits that they are unable to find peace or sleep, both during the day and at night. His limbs are worn out from the day’s work, and his minds are restless at night. His thoughts and aspirations for the person he is addressing in the poem is to blame for the absence of peace. The speaker’s inability to achieve peace and tranquility, both physically and psychologically, is a result of his constant struggle with memories of his beloved.
Through these lines, the speaker conveys his internal struggle and longing for the beloved. “Lo! thus” emphasizes the speaker’s restlessness since his mind is still active and preoccupied with the thoughts of his loved one. The phrase “for thee, and for myself” is repeated to emphasize how intertwined the speaker’s desire is for the well-being of the beloved. The phrase “no quiet find” emphasizes the speaker’s constant quest to find comfort and relief while also expressing desire and anger. These words highlight the speaker’s major emotional and mental state while supporting the idea of restless love and his or her unending longing for the beloved.