O! how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give.
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour, which doth in it live.
The canker blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo’d, and unrespected fade;
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall vade, my verse distills your truth.
The youth is praised not only for his beauty, but for inward truth as well. Those whose beauty is composed only of externalities are compared to wild and scentless roses, whereas those who have inward worth, like the youth, are compared to true roses, which are grown for their scent as much as for their looks.
The comparison of the young man with a rose is a constant motif throughout the Sonnets, commencing with 1, then here, and in 67, 95, 98, 99, and 109. In 67 it is also combined with truth.