by William Shakespeare
interpreted by Samantha Marcum
to the sessions of sweet silent thought
summon up remembrance of things past.
sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
with old woes' new ail my dear times waste:
can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
can I grieve at grievances foregone,
heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
I new pay as if not paid before.
if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
losses are restored and sorrows end.
Poet: William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Shakespeare
grew up in the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He was one
of many children, and his father was a well known leather worker in the
town. Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in 1582 and they had three children.
He later moved to London, leaving his family behind, to earn money. Between
1588 and 1593 Shakespeare's first plays were performed. From there he
gained popularity and writing experience. Shakespeare wrote tragedies
like Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, histories and comedies like
The Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing. The man is known for his
strong imagination, and genius insight into human thoughts and psychology.
He became famous though his plays, but rich through the Globe Theater.
The theater which he helped to build, and shared in the profits of, allowed
his to retire a gentleman farmer. He eventually wrote 36 plays and 154
sonnets, and became one of the most well known writers in history, and
is considered by some to be the greatest writer in the English language.
Vocabulary: Foregone - past and done with
o'er - Count up
moan - Sorrows suffered in the past
Type of poem: Sonnet, and also lyric poem
Speaker: A grieving man, who seems to be
in a great deal of pain.
Audience: General audience, or perhaps an old friend who has
Tone: The tone of the poem is very sad, yet
thoughtful. The speaker is upset about things that happened in the past,
and only seems to get more upset as the poem progresses. At the very end
of the poem, the tone cheers up, when the speaker thinks of a good memory.
Meaning: The poem is about a man who sits down to think about
the past and things that he has done. As he begins to remember things,
these memories become painful. He opens up old heartaches about death
and grieves for them all over again. "Which I new pay as if not paid
before," (Shakespeare 12). This quotation shows that this man is
paying for his past pains and mistakes all over again. At the very end
he realizes that although he is upset, things will get better. "But
if the while I think on thee, dear friend, all losses are restored and
sorrows end," (Shakespeare 13-14). This quotation shows that the
man understands that things will get better, and that the pain will lessen.
The speaker seems to be hinting that he is upset over the death of a good
friend. Although, when he thinks of his friend, he becomes happy again.
Structure of poem: - Traditional poem
Rhyme Scheme: a b a b, c d c d, e f e f, g g
Examples of poetic techniques used in the poem:
if the while I think on thee, dear friend, / all losses are restored
and sorrows end," (Shakespeare 13-14).
can I drown an eye, unused to flow," (Shakespeare 5).
to the sessions of sweet silent thought," (Shakespeare 1).
with old woes' new wail my dear times waste," (Shakespeare 4).
I can grieve at grievances foregone," (Shakespeare 9).
heavily from woe to woe tell o'er," (Shakespeare 10).
sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan," (Shakespeare 11).
I new pay as if not paid before," (Shakespeare 12).
Connection between the poem and the poet's life and/or
times: Since Shakespeare lived in the Elizabethan period, the
poem is written in Old English. It has the complicated style to it that
was common for poetry of the time. In fact, the most uneducated people
in Elizabethan society could understand Shakespeare. Shakespeare is known
to have an obsession with a young gentleman, whom he frequently addresses
in his sonnets. Perhaps this is the friend that he is talking to in this
Most memorable quote from the poem: "All losses are restored
and sorrows end," (Shakespeare 14).
© Smelli Notes 2001