When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
When I’ve fallen out of favor with fortune and men,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
All alone I weep over my position as a social outcast,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And pray to heaven, but my cries go unheard,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
And I look at myself, cursing my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Wishing I were like one who had more hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Wishing I looked like him; wishing I were surrounded by friends, Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
Wishing I had this man's skill and that man's freedom.
With what I most enjoy contented least;
I am least contented with what I used to enjoy most.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
But, with these thoughts – almost despising myself,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
I, by chance, think of you and then my melancholy
Like to the lark at break of day arising
Like the lark at the break of day, rises
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
From the dark earth and (I) sing hymns to heaven;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
For thinking of your love brings such happiness
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
That then I would not change my position in life with kings.
in disgrace (1): out of favor.
beweep (2): weep over (my outcast state).
outcast state (2): The poet's "outcast state" is possibly an allusion to his lack of work as an actor due to the closing of the theatres in 1592 (during an outbreak of plague). It also could be a reference to the attack on Shakespeare at the hands of Robert Greene. Please see the commentary below for more on Shakespeare and Greene. bootless (3): useless.
Shakespeare uses the word seventeen times in the plays. Compare Othello: The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief;
He robs himself that spends a bootless grief....
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