O, that you were yourself! but, love, you are
No longer yours than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give.
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination: then you were
Yourself again after yourself’s decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold
Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day
And barren rage of death’s eternal cold?
O, none but unthrifts! Dear my love, you know
You had a father: let your son say so.
This sonnet returns to the theme of procreation as a defence against death and ruin. It is interesting also that it is the first in the sequence that contains an open and unequivocal declaration of love: but, love you are/ etc. in l.1; and especially Dear my love in l.13. Is there any significance, I wonder, in the main declaration being in the 13th line of the 13th sonnet? (See further commentary SonnetXIII ).
The persistent undertone of time’s advance bringing winter, decay and death, here continues. The boy is urged to shore up his house against this eventual fate. But what seems to emerge more than anything from this poem is the inevitability and sadness of this demise, contrasted with the love and beauty which stands up bravely to fight against it, and the tenderness of the poet’s affection for the youth.