But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
And fortify yourself in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?
Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens yet unset
With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers,
Much liker than your painted counterfeit:
So should the lines of life that life repair,
Which this, Time’s pencil, or my pupil pen,
Neither in inward worth nor outward fair,
Can make you live yourself in eyes of men.
To give away yourself keeps yourself still,
And you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.
This seems to take its cue from the preceding sonnet, and the two together are in the form of a continuous meditation. Here the poet takes a step backwards from the declaration of promised immortality, for he has second thoughts and his verse (his pupil pen) is found to be inadequate to represent the young man as he really is, or to give a true account of his inner and outer beauty. Therefore the boy is urged once more to give himself away, in marriage, and thus to recreate himself.
Lines 9-12 present difficulties of meaning which probably can never be fully resolved. See the commentary below.