Sonnet 50: How heavy do I journey on the way
How heavy do I journey on the way,
When what I seek, my weary travel's end,
Doth teach that case 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 loved 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.
The poet draws an analogy between himself and the beast
on which he rides: "The beast that bears me, tired with
my woe, / Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,"
as though the non-physical weight of the poet's sadness
factors into the burden that the beast must carry.
Similarly, the groan that the animal makes prompts
the poet to recall his own sad state in traveling
farther away from the youth: "For that same groan
doth put this in my mind: / My grief lies onward and
my joy behind." Here, "onward" means physically forward,
but it also means into the future.
Because this future doesn't involve the young man,
the poet is grieved. Likewise, "behind" means from
where the poet physically has traveled, but it also
means the past, which was joyful because the poet
had the affections of the youth.