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Written by Timothy Sexton
I think of thee!
Sonnets are traditionally numbered and then referred to by their opening line as the title and this example is no different. The opening line establishes the tone and mood: the speaker cannot stop thinking of her beloved. This constant presence in her mind is engendered by the fact absence. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, the saying goes, but the speaker is an example of this concept being pushed into overdrive. The more she is separated from him, the more her thoughts are consumed. She thinks of him. Constantly. And this is emotional state is the engine driving the narrative to its conclusion.
my thoughts do twine and bud
About thee, as wild vines, about a tree
The idea that that physical distance stimulates passion and that being forced apart—ironically considering the autobiographical circumstances of the poem—is the very thing which draws the lovers together is conceptual foundation of the poem. It is upon this foundation that the writer creates a metaphor which is then also pursued through the poem. The enforced absence of her lover creates the obsessive thinking about him and this obsession is characterized in the imagery of her being like the vines which wrap themselves around a tree. These are the very lines which following the opening declaration. Over the course of the next dozen lines the speaker will refer to her lover as “my palm-tree” and “a strong tree.” She will also urge him to “rustle thy boughs” and “set they trunk bare.” To suggest the tree imagery is an extended metaphor is a profound understatement.
I do not think of thee—I am too near thee.
The poem progresses from the assertion by the speaker that she is thinking of her beloved to the explanation that she cannot stop thinking about him because they are apart. It is the being apart that urges the compulsion toward obsessive thought. She’s not crazy, however, under the terms of the deal which suggests that if you are aware of your mental state, then by definition it not insanity. On the contrary, the speaker is all too intensely aware that her thoughts have become compulsive. Even more to the point, she knows the reason for this compulsion. And finally, most important of all, she knows the cure for this compulsion and the cure is what she desires: to no longer have to be alone with her thoughts and instead to physically be with her beloved. Only then, when is near—when he is physical present—will she no longer think of him.
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