Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: The Sonnets (Modern)
  • Editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-proift purposes; for all other uses contact the Coordinating Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The Sonnets (Modern)

    When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see;
    For all the day they view things unrespected,
    But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
    And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
    635Then thou whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
    How would thy shadow's form, form happy show
    To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
    When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
    How would, I say, mine eyes be blessèd made
    640By looking on thee in the living day,
    When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
    Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
    All days are nights to see till I see thee,
    And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
    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.
    650No matter then although my foot did stand
    Upon the farthest earth removed 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,
    655To 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.
    The other two, slight air, and purging fire,
    Are both with thee, wherever I abide:
    The first my thought, the other my desire,
    These, present-absent, with swift motion slide;
    665For when these quicker elements are gone
    In tender embassy of love to thee,
    My life being made of four, with two alone
    Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy,
    Until life's composition be recured
    670By those swift messengers returned from thee,
    Who even but now come back again assured
    Of thy fair health, recounting it to me.
    This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,
    I send them back again and straight grow sad.