Original Text

Modern Text

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then, despite of space, I would be brought
From limits far remote where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee,
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah, thought kills me that I am not thought
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time’s leisure with my moan,
  Receiving naughts by elements so slow
  But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.
If I were made of thought instead of slow, dull flesh, this wicked distance between us wouldn’t keep me from where I wanted to be. No matter the distance—from the farthest possible regions—I would bring myself to where you are. It wouldn’t matter that my feet were standing on the spot on earth farthest from you: Thought is nimble enough to jump over both sea and land as quickly as it can think about the place it wants to be. But, ah, it’s killing me to think that I’m not made of thought and can’t leap over the many miles when you are gone. Instead my body is made of so much

earth and water

The speaker alludes to the belief that all matter is made up of four ele earth, water, air, and fire. Earth and water were believed to be the heaviest, most tangible elements.

earth and water
that I have to fill the long time without you with my moans. The leaden, deep earth and slow, wet water of which I am made give me nothing but heavy tears.

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