Colin Burrow (ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems
pg 436 pg 437 28
- Editor’s Note1How can I then return in happy plight,
- 2That am debarred the benefit of rest,
- Editor’s Note3When day's oppression is not eased by night,
- 4But day by night and night by day oppressed?
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus5And each (though enemies to either's reign)
- Editor’s Note6Do in consent shake hands to torture me,
- Editor’s Note7The one by toil, the other to complain
- 8How far I toil, still farther off from thee.
- Editor’s Note9I tell the day to please him thou art bright,
- 10And dost him grace when clouds do blot the heaven;
- Editor’s Note11So flatter I the swart-complexioned night,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus12When sparkling stars twire not thou gild'st the even.
- Critical Apparatus13 But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer,
- Editor’s Note14 And night doth nightly make grief's length seem stronger.
1 return in happy plight come back (from the journey described in 27) in a fortunate state
3 day's oppression the oppressive travel and labour of the daytime
5 either's] q (ethers); others benson; other's gildon 1714
5 either's each other's
6 Do in … me agree to form a partnership to oppress me
7 The one … the other are day and night respectively.
9 to please him Some editors mark this off by commas. Q's lack of punctuation doubles the flattery: both 'I tell the day, in order to please him, that … ' and 'I tell the day that you are bright only to please him'.
11 So flatter I in a similar way I please (with a touch of deceit)
swart-complexioned dark-faced, with a suggestion of malignity
12 gild'st the even] malone; guil'st th'eauen q
12 twire peep out; 'intr. To look narrowly or covertly; to peer; to peep. Also fig. of a light, etc'. (OED 1; first cited usage)
gild'st the even give a glitter to the evening. Q reads 'guil'st th' eauen'. This could be modernized as 'guilest th' heaven', meaning 'beguile or charm the skies'. 'Gild'st' makes the friend's presence a more obvious substitute for the stars. For a similar moment where Shakespeare seems to have collapsed together guile and gilding see Lucrece l. 1544 and n.
13–14 longer … length … stronger ] q; longer … strength … stronger capell; stronger … length … longer conj. Capell in Malone
14 length Many editors emend to 'strength'. As Kerrigan notes, this makes the couplet excessively predictable. The couplet works by using repetition to evoke endless labour (day … daily), whilst offsetting the dangerously mimetic tedium so generated by a daring interchange of length and intensity.
This and the following sonnet (linked in a cycle of woe by their opening word) make use of the conventions of complaint: the lover is isolated and apparently deprived of all means of comfort until thoughts of the friend dispel his gloom.