“How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time;
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute:
Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near”
Sonnet 97 is one of the 154 sonnets written by William Shakespeare, which deal with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. Sonnets 1 – 126 are all addressed to the “Fair Youth”, an unnamed young man to whom Shakespeare uses both romantic and loving language in his sequence of sonnets, suggesting to some readers perhaps a sexual relationship or to others just platonic love.
In his first line of the sonnet, Shakespeare writes of how he and his lover not being together feels like wintertime. Denny Bradbury, in her poet “My Gift to You”, uses a similar analogy when she talks to her lover of love being like the seasons and how, like Shakespeare feels when he describes his desperate condition that feels like winter to him – no light because winter is dark and no warmth because winter is cold “ ..What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!”:
“The discontent of winter
Lies heavy on your brow;
The eyes once full of summer sun
Shine solemn, wistful now.
You yearn for warmth and sunlight,
You long for birds to soar;
You look for buds to open
As they wake from frosty hoar.
Oh! Love is summer, it is spring –
But love is winter; too.
Be happy in the tide of life:
My love, my gift to you.” ~ ‘My Gift To You’
Shakespeare’s sonnet talks of how he is as hopeless as an orphan because the pleasures of life are only there when his lover is with him:
“…But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,…”
Denny Bradbury, in her poem “Hold Me Gently”, from her new collection of poetry’ De:versify’, follows a similar theme when she speaks of being entirely alone without the heat of her lover’s love:
“Hold me gently,
Rock me deep
Into the fathomless pool of a deep, deep sleep.
There let me be till the sun reappears
And the heat of your love in the day
Dries my tears.
Tears come unbidden –
They swell up and spill
Down my cheeks to fall softly in space.
Random drops of my fears
And my loneliness
For none to see… as I am alone
Without you beside me.”
The tone of Shakespeare’s sonnet is one of sadness – he describes how the absence of the person he loves makes his surroundings look as dreary as winter and he yearns for his lover’s presence. The fact that everything is empty without that person means that the season of summer looks like winter to him. The imagery that prevails throughout his sonnet is that of winter. Denny Bradbury also describes how the absence of a love can cause the season of summer to feel cold in her poem “Summer Cold”:
“Summer cold reflects your thoughts:
Dark and dank and all of nought –
Save that the sun will never shine
While he refuses to be thine.
Dreary days and colder night,
Clouds hiding all the glorious light
That you know is there above…”