A Separable Spite in Unity
With Sonnet XXVII the poet begins a sequence upon separation from his love. It is important to notice, however, that he has never been physically resident with his love. In Sonnet XXIII, he had at some time or times been within tongue reach of his love, but had been so stage-frightened that he determined to follow up with books, and in Sonnet XXVI was sending a written embassage. In Sonnet XXIV, the eye and heart strive to preserve "Thy beauty's form," as they had become aware of it when tongue had its chance as recorded in Sonnet XXIII. These appear to be the only hints of physical connection in the first series, and there is nothing, of course, to show that even they are to be taken literally. But in sonnets XXVII and XXVIII the poet laments a lengthening physical separation.
In Sonnet XXVII, (1) when the poet tired with travel goes to bed, his mind begins a journey, (2) for his thoughts travel to his love and keep his eyes staring at darkness, (3) but his "soul's imaginary sight" sees "thy shadow . . . like a jewel, hung in ghastly night."
(4) Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
The first two lines of the third quatrain apply a figure developed in Sonnet XXIV.
Save that my soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view.
It will be remembered that in Sonnet XXIV
Mine eye hath play'd the painter and hath stell'd,
Thy beauty's form in table of my heart.
The poet's soul is now looking upon that shadow.
In Sonnet XXVIII the poet (1) asks how he can return in happy plight since he is debarred of rest both by day and by night, (2) for day tortures him with toil, night to complain,
How far I toil, still farther off from thee.