The poet, separated from the beloved, reflects on the paradox that because he dreams of the beloved, he sees better with his eyes closed in sleep than he does with them open in daylight. His desire, though, is to see not the dream image but the actual person.
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see, For all the day they view things unrespected; But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee 4And, darkly bright, are bright in dark directed. Then thou whose shadow shadows doth make bright, How would thy shadow’s form form happy show To the clear day with thy much clearer light 8When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so! How would, I say, mine eyes be blessèd made By looking on thee in the living day, When in dead night ⌜thy⌝ fair imperfect shade 12Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay! All days are nights to see till I see thee, And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.