Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
The poet laments the corruption and dishonesty of the world, from which he desires to be released. This is a sonnet which strikes a chord in almost any age, for it tells the same old story, that graft and influence reign supreme, and that no inherent merit is ever a guarantee of success. For that depends on social structures and conditions already set in place long ago. As often as not they aid and promote the unworthy, the malicious, the wealthy, the incompetent and those who are just good at manipulation of the system.
A parallel passage is found in Hamlet, in the famous ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy, but Hamlet’s world-weariness springs from rather different causes. However the phrase ‘the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes’ is an interesting summary of the complaint of this sonnet. The relevant part of Hamlet’s speech is given below.
From Hamlet’s soliloquy:
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Ham.III.1.69-76.
KDJ draws attention to the placing of this sonnet in this position, as No. 66. "Multiples of six have adverse connotations, alluding to the biblical ‘beast’ associated with universal corruption: all human beings ‘had the marke, or the number of his name . . . and his number is sixe hundred threescore and sixe’. (Revelation, 13.16-18)."
KDJ 66 Headnote, p.242.
The 1609 Quarto Version
TYr'd with all theſe for reſtfull death I cry,
As to behold deſert a begger borne,
And needie Nothing trimd in iollitie,
And pureſt faith vnhappily forſworne,
And gilded honor ſhamefully miplaſt,
And maiden vertue rudely ſtrumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully diſgrac'd,
And ſtrength by limping ſway diſabled,
And arte made tung-tide by authoritie,
And Folly (Doctor-like) controuling skill,
And ſimple-Truth miſcalde Simplicitie,
And captiue-good attending Captaine ill.
Tyr'd with all theſe,from theſe would I be gone;
Saue that to dye,I leaue my loue alone.