How heavy do I journey on the way,
When what I seek, my weary travel’s end,
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
‘Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend!’
The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider lov’d not speed being made from thee.
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;
For that same groan doth put this in my mind,
My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.
Sonnet 50 in modern English
How heavy my heart is as I travel because my goal – the weary destination – will provide, in its leisurely and relaxed state, the chance to think “I’m so many miles away from my friend.” The horse that’s carrying me, wearied by my sadness, plods heavily on, bearing the weight of my feelings as though the wretch knows by some instinct that his rider is reluctant to speed because he’s moving away from you. The blood-drawing spurs that I sometimes thrust into his hide in anger can’t make him go any faster. All he does is respond with a heavy groan that hurts me more than the spurs in his sides hurt him because it reminds me that my grief lies ahead and my joy is all behind.
Watch Sir Patrick Stewart read Shakespeare’s sonnet 50
The 1609 Quarto sonnet 50 version
HOw heauie doe I iourney on the way, When what I ſeeke (my wearie trauels end) Doth teach that eaſe and that repoſe to ſay Thus farre the miles are meaſurde from thy friend. The beaſt that beares me,tired with my woe, Plods duly on,to beare that waight in me, As if by ſome inſtinct the wretch did know His rider lou’d not ſpeed being made from thee: The bloody ſpurre cannot prouoke him on, That ſome-times anger thruſts into his hide, Which heauily he anſwers with a grone, More ſharpe to me then ſpurring to his ſide, For that ſame grone doth put this in my mind, My greefe lies onward and my ioy behind.