sonnetLVI

Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allayed,
To-morrow sharpened in his former might:
So, love, be thou, although to-day thou fill
Thy hungry eyes, even till they wink with fulness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love, with a perpetual dulness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
   As call it winter, which being full of care,
   Makes summer's welcome, thrice more wished, more rare.

Perhaps the poet now takes stock and finds that as the weeks elapse the intensity of his love wanes. He meditates that it is not so with hunger, which renews itself with each passing day. 'Why cannot love be the same', he reasons. He urges himself, and the beloved friend also, to keep alive the spirit of love. Let them consider this time of separation as an interlude which divides lovers on different shores, making their reunion even more joyful. Or let it be as the starving winter which is alleviated at last by summer's return, a return which is all the more desired and precious because of the hardships of winter which have been endured.

The 1609 Quarto Version

SWeet loue renew thy force , be it not ſaid
Thy edge ſhould blunter be then apetite,
Which but too daie by feeding is alaied,
To morrow ſharpned in his former might.
So loue be thou,although too daie thou fill
Thy hungry eies,euen till they winck with fulneſſe,
Too morrow ſee againe,and doe not kill
The ſpirit of Loue,with a perpetual dulneſſe:
Let this ſad Intrim like the Ocean be
Which parts the ſhore,where two contracted new,
Come daily to the banckes,that when they ſee:
Returne of loue,more bleſt may be the view.
   As cal it Winter,which being ful of care,
   Makes Somers welcome,thrice more wiſh'd,more                                                                                           rare:

Commentary

1. Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Sweet love - an adjuration initially to the beloved, but the syntax soon changes the direction of the appeal to the love that the poet himself feels, which he fears is in danger of atrophying. be it not said = let it not be said.
2. Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,

edge .. blunter - we still talk of a keen or a sharp appetite, evidently likening its action to that of a knife. See also 52 For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure, and the note thereto.
should blunter be - could conceivably be.
appetite - specifically it is related to food in these three lines, but subsequently it is broadened to mean desire and sexual passion.

3. Which but to-day by feeding is allayed,
allayed and said evidently rhymed. allayed = quelled, overcome.
4. To-morrow sharpened in his former might:
in his former might - to its (appetite's) former strength or sharpness. This first quatrain urges 'love' not to be duller than mere hunger, which daily renews itself without prompting, even though it is often sated.
5. So, love, be thou, although to-day thou fill
In the same way, love, must you respond. Even if today you fill your eyes, yet tomorrow (line 7), be as fresh etc. This quatrain also, as the first, seems to address the youth directly, more so than it does the spirit of love which abides in the poet's heart. But the links with other sonnets, especially 46 and 47, when the poet's eyes feed on the youth in dreams and absence, suggest that the meaning 'my love for you', or 'the love that is within me' is just as important here.
6. Thy hungry eyes, even till they wink with fulness,
wink = shut, close. The eyes would close because they had had their fill of gazing.
7. To-morrow see again, and do not kill
see again - look, gaze once more.
8. The spirit of love, with a perpetual dulness.
The spirit of love = the god of love; the essence of love. Also a sexual meaning, as in The expense of spirit in a waste of shame 129.
a perpetual dulness - caused by satiety, or a general cooling off.
9. Let this sad interim like the ocean be
interim = gap of time, physical separation. But no separation has yet been mentioned, and indeed it is slightly at variance with the rest of the poem, in which over indulgence produces weariness and a falling off of love. However the idea does tie in with 43-52, and is continued in the following sonnet. Notice however how the interim of time is given a physical meaning of spatial separation in the next lines.
10. Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Which parts the shore = which (the ocean) divides the shore, (thus making two shores).
two contracted new - a couple, who are newly betrothed (contracted). The image conjures up Hero and Leander separated by the Hellespont. On the other hand an ocean is such a wide expanse that one could hardly expect to catch a glimpse of the beloved on the other side. The expectation is therefore perhaps of a ship coming in to view, the 'return of love' which carries the loved one.
11. Come daily to the banks, that when they see
Each lover visits the shore (bank) every day in the hope of seeing the partner returning. banks are often connected in Shakespeare with lovers:
No - like a bank for love to lie and play on;
Not like a corse; or if, not to be buried,
But quick and in mine arms.
WT.IV.4.130-2
12. Return of love, more blest may be the view;
return of love = return of the loved one; rejuvenation of love.
13. As call it winter, which being full of care,
As call it winter. Usually emended to Or call it winter. The link is to line 9, and the recommendation that 'this sad interim be like the ocean' or 'as the winter'. We may paraphrase it as 'Let this separation be like the ocean, .... or you may call it the winter season'. Winter and summer, pleasure and care are often linked together as opposites, as in:
Crabbed age and youth cannot live together:
Youth is full of pleasance, age is full of care;
Youth like summer morn, age like winter weather;
Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare.
PP.12
Winter was a time of shortage and near starvation for many in Elizabethan England. Hence the care and anxieties were very real and pressing.
14. Makes summer's welcome, thrice more wished, more rare.
thrice - used vaguely to indicate many times, or perhaps as a magical number, as used by the witches in Macbeth.
Thrice the brinded cat hath mewed.
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Mac.IV.1.1-2
rare
- rich, precious. As a rare jewel.