by William Shakespeare
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
The speaker in this Sonnet is obviously upset at the beginning, an outcast who Fortune is not smiling on. We don’t know why he’s in disgrace, and we really can’t just assume the speaker is Shakespeare himself. The disgrace, real or imagined, may be exaggerated to make the speaker sound more gloomy and depressed, even heaven ignores his cries. This gives an even brighter contrast to the last few lines when speaker thinks about his beloved. That thought is what lifts him, allows him to be happy again, so much so that he would not even change places with a king.
I imagine this is an easy one for people to identify with. Who hasn’t felt down at some point, left out or disregarded, or just plain broke, but remembering those you love, husband, child, friends, bouys you up, brightens your outlook?
I read this in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
Category: Classics- Poetry
First published in 1609
Book source: Free for Kindle
Shakespeare Reading Month is hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.