When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

Here is an uplifting sonnet from Shakespeare in which he describes being lonely, alone, sad and depressed, but then brought back to a joyous state by thinking of his loved one. It is an object lesson in positive thinking and mental resilience; a fine application of the advice to count your blessings whenever you are feeling low.

SONNET 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

From <http://shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/29.html&gt;

For the short space of 14 lines, there is a fine dramatic progression in this poem, a compact but meaningful psychological journey, grounded in plausible experience.

The first four lines see the poet cast down, in disgrace, alone, weeping and lamenting his fate. There is an accumulation of misfortune and sadness which will make the reader think there is no hope for the poet and he is at risk of jumping off the nearest bridge.

The second four lines ramp up the sorrow as the poet not only reflects on his own misfortunes, but adds the angst of comparing his situation with more fortunate fellows, better looking, having friends, having skills and occupation. But he realises that he is not content with what he has.

And then in the ninth line, the mood begins to change, signalled with great economy by the word “yet”, meaning there may be another side to this sorry story. Ye, he is full of self-pity or worse, but suddenly the poet begins to think of his loved one and he comes alive again. And not only does he come alive but he feels he can sing like a lark at heaven’s gate. The power of love, even though the lover is clearly absent, transforms the poet’s sadness and self pity into contentment and satisfaction. The psychological journey is complete and both the poet and the reader can relax with a smile.

For absence makes the heart grow fonder.

The Poetry Dude

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