When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, Dearing this man’s art, and that man’s scope. With that most enjoy contentend least: Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee, and then my state Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings. Sonnet 29 of William Shakespeare has the theme “contentment is a state of mind that brings about happiness to a beloved”. The first quatrain starts by establishing the theme. In the second quatrain, he begins to list the qualities that he wishes that he possessed. He wishes that he was more hopeful, meaning that he had better prospects, or that he was someone who believes that things will eventually work themselves out. He wants to be more featured like this one man that he saw.
He also wants to be like another guy, who have lots of friends and is well-liked. He wants this man’s art and another’s scope. He once liked himself but changed his mind when he saw how good other men were at various things, and out of envy he began to feel unsatisfied with himself. In the third quatrain, the mood shifts and he seems to become happy once again. He says that when he is so deep in his self-loathing the only thing that makes him happy is the thought of his beloved. Haply means by chance, but is used has a pun here on the happily.
This chance thought of his beloved makes him happy. He gives an analogy between his current state of happiness to that of a lark. Larks are notorious for their habit of flying straight up in the air first thing in the morning and singing the whole time. In the Couplet, He states great wealth and fortune accompany the mere thought of the beloved’s love. He is so happy that he scorns the notion of changing his state with that of a king. State is punned here; in this line state means throne, he doesn’t want to be a king, instead he is content with being himself.