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OMMENTARY

SONNET   44     XLIV

 XLIV.

1. If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
2. Injurious distance should not stop my way;
3. For then despite of space I would be brought,
4. From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
5. No matter then although my foot did stand
6. Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
7. For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
8. As soon as think the place where he would be.
9. But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
10. To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
11.But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
12. I must attend time's leisure with my moan,
13.Receiving nought by elements so slow
14. But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.
 

  If my body could travel with the ease and alacrity with which my thoughts do, I could be with you wherever you are. But the thought itself (that my body is not thought and has not its ability to travel everywhere) is a killing thought. Being so much composed of the two heavy elements, earth and water, I must patiently wait till you return. The only profit received from these two coarse elements is the heaviness of tears, which bear witness both to my sorrow and to yours.

The following sonnet, 55, takes up the theme of the four elements and continues the thought expressed in this one.

     

   

 

THE 1609 QUARTO VERSION

 

44

 I
F the dull ſubstance of my fleſh were thought,
Iniurious diſtance ſhould not ſtop my way,
For then diſpight of ſpace I would be brought,
From limits farre remote,where thou dooſt ſtay,
No matter then although my foote did ſtand
Vpon the fartheſt earth remoou'd from thee,
For nimble thought can iumpe both ſea and land,
As ſoone as thinke the place where he would be.
But ah,thought kills me that I am not thought
To leape large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that ſo much of earth and water wrought,
I muſt attend,times leaſure with my mone.
  Receiuing naughts by elements ſo ſloe,
  But heauie teares,badges of eithers woe.

 

 
     

 

 

1. If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
 
  1. If my body were made of thought (rather than heavy substances). Thought is here a noun.
 
dull substance = heavy, gross material.
 
2. Injurious distance should not stop my way;
 
  2. Injurious (harmful) because it keeps him from his beloved.
should not stop my way = would not bar my path, would not prevent my journeying.
3. For then despite of space I would be brought,
 
 
  3. despite = in spite of, to spite.
space
= distance, separation.
I would be brought = I would be able to travel, to come. (If I wished it) I could be brought.
4. From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.   4. From places far off, to where you are at present.
where thou dost stay = where your present abode is.
5. No matter then although my foot did stand   6. It would not matter that my foot might be standing etc.
 
6. Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;   6. earth = land, country, ground, part of the earth.
removed form thee = distant from you.
7. For nimble thought can jump both sea and land    7. The imagery of thought jumping nimbly from place to place, travelling faster than any traveller, goes back to Homer.
8. As soon as think the place where he would be.    8. he = it. This refers back to thought in the previous line.
where he would be = in the place where thought wishes itself to be.
9. But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,    9. The fact that I am dull substance, and not thought, is enough to kill me with despair, for thought could leap etc.
10. To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
 
 
   10. leap large lenths... miles - the repetition of the l sound and the word stress gives the impression of taking enormous strides over vast areas of country.
 
when thou art gone = when you are absent from me.
11.But that, so much of earth and water wrought,    11. But, on the contrary, (the fact) that my body is largely composed of earth and water. wrought = made out of.
12. I must attend time's leisure with my moan,    12. I am at the mercy of (must attend) time's whims, which causes me anguish. The image is of a servant attending an imperious master.
13.Receiving nought by elements so slow
 
 
   13. 13-14. The earth and water which make up my body do not benefit me at all. I receive nothing (naught) from them. They only produce tears, which are emblematic (badges) of the sorrow we both (either) feel as a result of our separation.
14. But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.
 
   14. See note above.
heavy = solid and material, like the dull substance of my flesh. Causing the heaviness of sorrow.
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Home Sonnets 1 - 50 Sonnets 51 - 100 Sonnets 101 - 154 A Lover's Complaint. Sonnet no. 1
First line index Title page and Thorpe's Dedication Some Introductory Notes to the Sonnets Sonnets as plain text 1-154 Text facsimiles Other related texts of the period
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Thomas Wyatt Poems Other Authors General notes  for background details, general policies etc. Map of the site Valentine Poems
London Bridge   as it was in Shakespeare's day, circa 1600. Views of London   as it was in 1616. Views of  Cheapside  London, from a print of 1639. The Carrier's  Cosmography.   A guide to all the Carriers in London.  As given by John Taylor in 1637. Oxquarry Books Ltd
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