Much of the United States is under a deep freeze, under deep snow, or both. So Sonnet 97 came to mind, with its marvelous and repeated winter imagery.
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 removed 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.
The Young Man has abandoned the Poet, being gone, it seems, for a the better part of a year. And his absence, though it comes during the Summer and Autumn, makes those seasons seem as barren as Winter. That absence has frozen the Poet’s emotions and made the harvest time barren: ‘Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease,’ one of my favorite lines.
The Sonnet’s final couplet is a beautiful turn: Even if the birds should sing, they sing with a dull cheer: ‘Or, if they sing, ‘tis with so dull a cheer.’
I like the Sonnet because it is quintessential in its construction: a great metaphor that carries through from start to finish; the almost perfect construction of its sonnet form (rhyme, meter, quatrains, turns); its easy grace and the natural melody of its rhythm. Read it aloud! However, if you read it to your beloved, preface things first, lest he or she misinterpret it: this is Sonnet of longing, after all.
The image is of an old vintage postcard of the River Avon in Stratford in the heart of winter.