‘People look East’ is a good Advent cry (from Eleanor Farjeon’s carol), and here in Sonnet 7 we have ‘Lo, in the orient’, as the sun rises in the East. Sunlight shines throughout this sonnet, the ‘sacred majesty’ whose ‘golden pilgrimage’ our ‘under eyes’ can only blink at. And then at the turning-point, the volta, in line 9, the sun begins to set and our eyes ‘look another way.’ I love the way the moon is anticipated in the couplet with the sound of the word ‘noon’, which looks backwards at the same, and the way the ‘sun’ turns into a ‘son’ at the very end.
Lo, in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty,
And having climbed the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
Attending on his golden pilgrimage.
But when from highmost pitch, with weary car,
Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day,
The eyes, ‘fore duteous, now converted are
From his low tract, and look another way.
So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon,
Unlooked on diest unless thou get a son.
Click on the post below to hear Sonnet 7 read by my colleague Dr Anjna Chouhan, Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
You might like to visit a similar Shakespeare for Advent project led by students at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.