If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time's leisure with my moan,
Receiving nought by elements so slow
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, 45, takes up the theme of the four elements and continues the thought expressed in this one.
The 1609 Quarto Version
IF 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.