Sonnets for Advent 9: Sonnet 27

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How often have we all been unable to sleep because of not being mentally tired enough? How much more so is the effect of insomnia palpable in this sonnet when the poet can’t stop thinking about the beloved, who, one can imagine, appears at the end of the poet’s bed, almost ghost-like.

The theme of being unable to stop thinking about the lover and therefore being unable to sleep is also the theme of Sonnets 43 and 61.

Today’s sonnet is read by actor and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust colleague, Christopher Harvey.

Sonnet 27
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;
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.

Find out more about Shakespeare’s Sonnets via our free on-line course

Listen to the same sonnet being read by a student at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.

You might like to treat yourself to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s own, exclusive edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, edited by our Honorary President, Professor Stanley Wells C.B.E., and beautifully printed by Oxford University Press. Find out more by clicking here.

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson

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