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 wail my dear time's 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 restor'd and sorrows end.
This is one of the most pensive and gentle of the sonnets. It links in closely with the previous one, both in thought and layout. The discontent with life which was expressed there still remains in this one, as the poet surveys his past life and all the sorrows it has brought him.
The language is quasi-legal, possibly based on that appropriate to a manorial court investigating discrepancies in its accounts. Hence terms like, waste, expense, grievance, cancelled, tell o'er, paid before, are employed. When the account is finally reckoned up, with his dear friend added to the balance sheet, the discrepancies and losses disappear, and all sorrow is outweighed by the joy of remembering him.
The 1609 Quarto Version
WHen to the Seſſions of ſweet ſilent thought,
I ſummon vp remembrance of things paſt,
I ſigh the lacke of many a thing I ſought,
And with old woes new waile my deare times waſte:
Then can I drowne an eye(vn-vſ'd to flow)
For precious friends hid in deaths dateles night,
And weepe a freſh loues long ſince canceld woe,
And mone th'expence of many a vanniſht ſight.
Then can I greeue at greeuances fore-gon,
And heauily from woe to woe tell ore
The ſad account of fore-bemoned mone,
Which I new pay as if not payd before.
But if the while I thinke on thee (deare friend)
All loſſes are reſtord,and ſorrowes end.