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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 44: ‘If the dull substance of my flesh were thought’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 44th sonnet

‘If the dull substance of my flesh were thought, / Injurious distance should not stop my way’: yes, sonnet 44 in Shakespeare’s Sonnets is another poem about the long-distance love Shakespeare bears the Fair Youth. This sonnet generally requires less critical analysis than most of the Sonnets, but nevertheless a few words of summary and explication help to show how Shakespeare’s poem uses the scientific ideas of his age to highlight the plight of the long-distance lover.

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 removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be. Read the rest of this entry


Book Review: David Gemmell, Rhyming Rings

In a new series of posts, Dispatches from the Secret Library, our founder-editor Dr Oliver Tearle considers a surprising title from his bookshelves

When the British fantasy author David Gemmell died in summer 2006, he had been hard at work on Fall of Kings, the final volume in his epic trilogy retelling the story of the siege of Troy from Homer’s Iliad. His widow, Stella, heroically took on the task of completing the novel, working from her late husband’s notes. When Troy: Fall of Kings (Trojan War Trilogy): 3 was published the following year, his legions of fans thought it was the last new David Gemmell title we would ever see published.

The announcement last year that a previously unpublished David Gemmell novel, Rhyming Rings, would be published by Gollancz in 2017, prompted both surprise and excitement. A new Gemmell novel? But this would not be a fantasy, the genre in which he had made his name, but a crime novel. Even more surprising. Gemmell had excelled as a writer of heroic fantasy – if you’re a fan of the genre and have never read his work, I recommend getting hold of Legend, Waylander, and Wolf in Shadow right away – but would Rhyming Rings offer the same sort of addictive reading experience as a Druss or Rigante novel? Read the rest of this entry

10 of the Best Poems about Sleep

The best lullabies and sleep-related poems in English

Whether we’re suffering from insomnia or asleep as soon as our head hits the pillow, whether we get too little or too much of it, sleep is a big part of our lives. So it’s unsurprising that so many poets have explored sleep in their work. Here are ten of the greatest poems about sleep from all of English literature.

Sir Philip Sidney, Sonnet 39. ‘Come sleep, O sleep, the certain knot of peace’: so begins this, one of the most famous poems from the first substantial sonnet sequence written in English (in the early 1580s). In this sonnet, one of Sir Philip Sidney’s most oft-anthologised poems, Astrophil tries to strike a bargain with sleep (which eludes him because of his passionate love for Stella), promising the personified ‘Sleep’ a nice reward if the poet’s request for rest is granted: that there, in Astrophil’s dreams, we will be able to see the beautiful image of Stella. One of the cleverest sonnets in the sequence – though ‘clever’ should not be confused with ‘contrived’ here. Read the rest of this entry