[ xliii << ] [ >> xlv ] [ Change line numbering ]

William Shakespeare, Sonnet xliv

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then, despite of space, I would be brought
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then, although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth remov'd from thee,
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land,
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah! thought kills me, that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that, so much of earth and water wrought, [*]
I must attend time's leisure with my moan;
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either's woe:


line 11: A passage in Henry V. explains this:-- "He is pure air and fire; and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him." The thought is continued in the first line of the 45th Sonnet, in which Sonnet we also find "My life being made of four". This was the theory of life in Shakespeare's time; and Sir Toby, in Twelfth Night, speaks learnedly when he say, "Does not our life consist of the four elements?" Shakespeare, however, somewhat laughts at the theory when he makes Sir Andrew reply, "Faith, so they say, but I think it rather consists of eating and drinking." [ Back to text ]

Most notes to Shakespeare's sonnets are from Charles Knight's edition, but those in square brackets are mine.