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Writing Prompt

Read the following poems by William Shakespeare and write an essay about the poems in which you address the following questions.

How does the poem work? How would you explicate its meaning? What does the poem accomplish aesthetically, intellectually, and/or philosophically?

Sonnet 44

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 remov’d 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.

Sonnet 45

The other two, slight air, and purging fire
Are both with thee, wherever I abide;
The first my thought, the other my desire,
These present-absent with swift motion slide.
For when these quicker elements are gone
In tender embassy of love to thee,
My life, being made of four, with two alone
Sinks down to death, oppress’d with melancholy;
Until life’s composition be recured
By those swift messengers return’d from thee,
Who even but now come back again, assured
Of thy fair health, recounting it to me:
This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,
I send them back again, and straight grow sad.

Example of a “4” Response

Sonnet 44 is an iambic pentameter. Its rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. The poem speaks of yearning for a loved one who is far away from the speaker. In line 1, the speaker wishes for himself to become “thought” for then “injurious distance should not stop [his] way.” Likewise, once he is transformed to “thought” no amount of distance or vastness of space can stop him from being with his loved one (line 3-4). Though the speaker stands farthest from his loved one, nevertheless, “for nimble thought can jump both sea and land” then it poses no such great divide between the speaker and his lover.

Suddenly, the speaker realizes that “… thought kills [him] that [he] is not thought. With this, he feels overwhelmed and helpless by the physical limitations posed by his environment: distance, space, time. Thus, separating him from the person he adores and treasures. And so, he will let time pass by with his “moan” and longingness and desire to be with his lover.

The poem is effective in recreating the feeling of longingness to be with a loved one. The desire to transgress the effect of time and space is evident in the poem. In essence, it conveys powerfully the love at the same time the feeling of helplessness of the speaker.

On the other hand, in Sonnet 45 the speaker is trying to assure his loved one that his “thought” and “desire” are with her no matter where he may roam as an expression of his devoted love. He likens his “thought” to that of “slight air” and his “desire” to purging fire. Hence, declaring the intensity of his love as well as emphasize his warmth and presence. However, when the time comes that these “…quicker elements are gone” and fades away with time, and with the eventuality of his death, he will still try to make his presence felt even if he is already on his grave. He will send “swift messengers” so that he will be able to know her condition (lines 10-12). Once he hears that her lover is in good condition, this will make him joyous but only temporarily. Since, he knows he is dead and cannot be with her. Still, the cycle begins anew, he will send back the “swift messengers” to continue watching over her lover.

The poem is melancholic and sad in tone. In essence, it beautifully illustrates the undying devotion of the speaker to his lover. It depicts the immortality of love which knows no time, no boundaries, no limits. Also, the poem shows that true love is eternal.”