William Shakespeare

Colin Burrow (ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems

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pg 466 pg 467 43

  • Editor’s Note1When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
  • Editor’s Note2For all the day they view things unrespected,
  • 3But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
  • Editor’s Note4And, darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
  • Editor’s Note5Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
  • Editor’s Note6How would thy shadow's form form happy show,
  • 7To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
  • 8When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
  • 9How would (I say) mine eyes be blessèd made
  • 10By looking on thee in the living day,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus11When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
  • Editor’s Note12Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
  • 13  All days are nights to see till I see thee,
  • Editor’s Note14  And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 wink sleep (OED 3)
Editor’s Note
2 unrespected 'Unregarded, unnoticed' (OED 1), citing Griffin's Fidessa (1596) 37: 'Whilst I … do sit in heavy plight, | Wailing alone my unrespected love'. Possibly also 'of no importance'.
Editor’s Note
4 darkly bright able to see more clearly in the dark
bright in dark directed directed piercingly towards their object, although it is night
Editor’s Note
5 whose shadow … bright 'whose mere appearance in a dream can make darkness shine'. On shadow see 27.10 n.
Editor’s Note
6–8 How … so? 'How delightfully would your real presence (with its far greater brightness) shine out in the day, when your imagined presence shines so brightly to eyes which are shut.' Thy shadow's form is the substance which gives rise to the imaginary resemblance.
Critical Apparatus
11 thy] malone (conj. Capell); their q
Editor’s Note
11 thy Q reads 'their'. On this error, see 26.12 n.
imperfect 'not fully real'; also, perhaps, given the concern of this part of the sequence with the failings of the friend, 'Positively faulty, vicious, evil' (OED 3)
Editor’s Note
12 heavy deep. The word is often associated with sleep, and can mean 'slow, sluggish, dull' (Schmidt, 5), 'weary, drowsy, sleepy' (Schmidt, 6).
stay remain with (although Schmidt proposes 'be in the same place as')
Editor’s Note
14 show thee me show you to me. The reverse reading is possible ('show me to you'), but nothing in the preceding poem encourages it.
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