How careful was I, when I took my way,
Each trifle under truest bars to thrust,
That to my use it might unused stay
From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust!
But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are,
Most worthy of comfort, now my greatest grief,
Thou, best of dearest and mine only care,
Art left the prey of every vulgar thief.
Thee have I not lock’d up in any chest,
Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art,
Within the gentle closure of my breast,
From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part;
And even thence thou wilt be stol’n, I fear,
For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.
The poet now begins to agonise once more over the vulnerability of himself and the youth. While he is away, every passer by might be tempted by the youth’s beauty to steal him away from the poet’s heart. Though he has taken great care to protect his possessions, he cannot do the same for the one possession that is dearer to him than all other – the youth whom he loves.
The youth’s beauty is sufficient to tempt even the saintliest person to theft. The sense of helplessness grows as the poem proceeds, and it is augmented by the following sonnets: 49, which deals with the ultimate loss of love; 50 and 51, which describe a necessary journey away from the beloved, and the agonies which ensue.
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