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Poetry Analysis Notes


Sonnet 30
by William Shakespeare
interpreted by Samantha Marcum

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past.
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes' new ail my dear times waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All 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
Tell o'er - Count up
Fore-bemoanèd moan - Sorrows suffered in the past
Dateless - Endless
Expense - Loss

Type of poem:
Sonnet, and also lyric poem

Speaker: A grieving man, who seems to be in a great deal of pain.

General audience, or perhaps an old friend who has died

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.

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
- Shakespearean Sonnet
- Iambic pentameter
- Rhyme Scheme: a b a b, c d c d, e f e f, g g

Examples of poetic techniques used in the poem:

"But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, / all losses are restored and sorrows end," (Shakespeare 13-14). Couplet
"Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow," (Shakespeare 5).
"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought," (Shakespeare 1).
"And with old woes' new wail my dear times waste," (Shakespeare 4).
"Then I can grieve at grievances foregone," (Shakespeare 9).
"And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er," (Shakespeare 10).
"The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan," (Shakespeare 11). Alliteration
"Which I new pay as if not paid before," (Shakespeare 12). Alliteration

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 sonnet.

Most memorable quote from the poem:
"All losses are restored and sorrows end," (Shakespeare 14).

© Smelli Notes 2001