Sonnet 50 & 51

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Sonnets 50 and 51 paired together depict a theme of travel. Specifically, the speakers travels on horseback. These travels cause him great despair because he is leaving behind his beloved young man. Shakespeare begins the poem with “How heavy do I journey on the way”. Heavy is describing the emotional burden he feels as he reluctanly leaves his friend. As the sonnet continues, the speakers feelings of misery become greater. Consequently, he draws an analogy between himself and the horse he rides on. The horse is portrayed as slow, which identifies with the rider who is slow to leave his friend, for it brings him great sadness. In the last quatrain Shakespeare writes “The bloody spur cannot provoke him on/ that sometimes anger thrusts into his hide/ which heavily he answers with a groan/ more sharp to me than spurring to his side”. This bloody wound may symbolize the mental “wound” of the rider and with each groan from the horse the speaker is reminded of that “wound”. The sonnet concludes with the heartbroken speaker traveling further from his friend, dwelling on the sadness that lies ahead. Sonnet 51 is a continuation of the speakers travels on the slow horse but the mood of the writing seems to change from melancholy to excitement. The speakers thoughts shift from the woes of separation to the joys of his return. He refers back to the horse again, stating that the horse won’t be able to move fast enough to bring him back to his friend. He writes, “Then can no horse with my desire keep pace”, parelleling the horses speed with his desire to return to his love. Throughout the two sonnets the speaker refers to his horse in a negative manner by accusing him of being slow but in the conclusion of 51 he is willing to “excuse” him for his lack of speed and will forget him altogether as long as he brings him back to his beloved..
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