As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth.
For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts do crowned sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store:
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am sufficed
And by a part of all thy glory live.
Look, what is best, that best I wish in thee:
This wish I have; then ten times happy me!
An interlude occurs, in which the poet takes stock and reflects on what the youth has given him. Though he himself is old and useless, the abundance of the youth’s qualities feeds into his veins, like sap into a grafted tree. This transforms him and removes his lameness and his failures. The youth has everything that is desirable, and the great store of his qualities diffuses its glory around. The poet is contented, for he sees that his beloved has all that is best, all that he could wish for him, and he basks in this reflected glory, his decrepit status now entirely forgotten.
The shadow/substance contrast of l.10 provides a possible source of dating of this sonnet, and in the further notes provided Sonnet 37 I have attempted to show how this might be done, and the difficulties involved therein.
The Sonnet is also important because of its links to biblical texts, in particular to Psalm 37. See the Introductory Notes for further discussion.