‘Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,’ or Sonnet 27, by William Shakespeare was published in 1609 in the collection, Shakespeare’s Sonnets. It is one of 154 the poet and playwright penned in his lifetime. It is also included in a specific section of the collection, which is referred to as the Fair Youth group. Within these five poems, the speaker muses on a beautiful young man he clearly adores, but is far away from.
The poem is structured in the form which has come to be synonymous with the poet’s name. It made up of three quatrains, or sets of four lines, and one concluding couplet, or set of two rhyming lines. The poem follows a consistent rhyme scheme that conforms to the pattern of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG and it is written in iambic pentameter. This means that each line contains five sets of two beats, known as metrical feet. The first is unstressed and the second stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM.
‘Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed’ by William Shakespeare speaks on the exhaustion and hope associated with the jewel-like image of a young man.
The poem begins with the speaker describing how tired he is. He is on his way to bed and is ready to collapse into sleep. His whole body is in need of repose. But, something is standing in his way. His mind is consumed by the thought of a single person, a young man, sometimes referred to as the “Fair Youth”. This person is far from the speaker. They are somewhere he cannot reach. It is a place that is never described in any great detail.
The speaker is stuck in the dark, like a blind person, staring at nothing. But, that’s not entirely true as there are images inside his mind. These are of the jewel-like young man. His shining image lights up the darkness, driving off its ugliness and renewing the night’s old face.
The poem concludes with the speaker stating that his exhaustion, physical and mental, day and night, are caused by thoughts of this person. There is no escape for him.
Explore more William Shakespeare poems.
Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
In the first lines of ‘Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed’ the speaker begins by stating that he is “Weary”. He has been engaged in some kind of unknown “toil” and is now he ready for bed. He is hastening there, moving as quickly as possible. The speaker is seeking out a place where he can rest, and his bed is going to provide just that. His “travel tired” limbs need “repose.” This line gives the reader a little more detail, but still it is unclear if he has been doing physical or mental labour, or maybe both.
When the speaker finally makes it to his bed, there is another journey he has to embark on. It is a mental one that he can’t escape from. Now that his body is resting, his mind is able to work in a different way.
For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
The next quatrain explains the situation to the reader. The poem shifts into second person, and the young man, known as the Fair Youth in other poems, is spoken to directly. From prior knowledge of the sonnet, and the group to which it belongs, a reader might already know that four other poems are dedicated to this mysterious person. Together, they form a loose narrative about the speaker’s emotional connection to the man.
Just as his body may have worked during the day, now his mind is forced to make a “pilgrimage to thee”. It is a long journey as the young man is somewhere far from where the speaker lives. This is something he wishes he could change, but at this point all he can do is mourn for a change in their relationship.
At beginning of the poem the speaker was exhausted, now that his mind has embarked on the journey he is wide awake. His eyes stare off into the darkness, seeing as a blind person would.
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
In the final quatrain of ‘Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed’ the speaker adds that the darkness in his room does not exist in his mind. There are “imaginary sights” in his “sightless view”. These are images of the young man and they come straight from the speaker’s soul. He describes the image he sees as aa “jewel hung in a ghastly night”. The speaker is worried about the darkness around him, and around the image, but the young man breaks through that worry and brings him pleasure.
The blackness of the night is usually ugly to this speaker. He tells the young man that his imaginary presence there makes it “beauteous” instead. He also influences the “her old face,” or the face of the night. “She,” or nighttime, is no longer old looking. She is rejuvenated.
Lo, thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
As is common in Shakespeare’s poems, the last two lines are a rhyming pair, known as a couplet. They often bring with them a turn or volta. They’re sometimes used to answer a question posed in the previous twelve lines, shift the perspective, or even change speakers.
In this case the speaker adds that because of the young man, his body is unable to rest during the day or at night. This adds context to the first lines. It suggests that the only reason the speaker was so tired in the evening was because he’d spent the whole day thinking about the young man.