Only But a Memory Away

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"But if the whilte I think on thee (dear friend)/ All losses are restored, and sorrows end" (lines 13-14)

This poem is a beautiful description of the bittersweet nature of the passage of time. Initially, I thought that the speaker in Shakespeare's Sonnet "When to the Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought" was contemplating the passage of time in his own life. There is a clear indication of this in lines 1-4:

"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,/ I summon up remembrance of things past,/ I sigh the lack of many a thing I shought,/ And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:"

These lines present the speaker as a bit self- absorbed. He or she is contemplating his or her failures and wasted time and opportunities. However, from line 5 on, we can see a clear connection between the speaker and a friend who had passed away. Clearly, the speaker is crying when he or she states in lines 5- 8:

"Then can I drown an eye (un-used to flow)/ For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,/ and weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,/ and moan th'expense of many a vanished sight."

Not only is the speaker informing the reader that he or she had not shed many tears in the past, but this also indicates a long-gone lover of some sort. Additionally, the reader may perceive that the speaker is at fault for his or her friend's death in saying that "Which I new pay as if not paid before" in line 12. The occurrence may be coming back to haunt the speaker.

Then, in the final two lines, the speaker states "But if the while I think on thee (dear friend)/ All losses are restored, and sorrows end," which makes me believe that the speaker could be referring to not a lover, but a close friend that unexpectedly passed away ("For precious friends hid in death's dateless night" -line 6).

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