Sonnets 101–110

Sonnet 101
O truant Muse what shall be thy amends
For thy neglect of truth in beauty dy'd?
Both truth and beauty on my love depends;
So dost thou too, and therein dignified.
Make answer Muse: wilt thou not haply say,
'Truth needs no colour, with his colour fix'd;
Beauty no pencil, beauty's truth to lay;
But best is best, if never intermix'd'?
Because he needs no praise, wilt thou be dumb?
Excuse not silence so, for't lies in thee
To make him much outlive a gilded tomb
And to be prais'd of ages yet to be.
     Then do thy office, Muse; I teach thee how
     To make him seem long hence as he shows now.

Sonnet 102
My love is strengthen'd, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear;
That love is merchandiz'd, whose rich esteeming,
The owner's tongue doth publish every where.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer's front doth sing,
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
     Therefore like her, I sometime hold my tongue:
     Because I would not dull you with my song.

Sonnet 103
Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth,
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument, all bare, is of more worth
Than when it hath my added praise beside!
O! blame me not, if I no more can write!
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That over-goes my blunt invention quite,
Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace.
Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?
For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;
     And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
     Your own glass shows you when you look in it.

Sonnet 104
To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey'd,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold,
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd,
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv'd;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv'd:
     For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred:
     Ere you were born was beauty's summer dead.

Sonnet 105
Let not my love be call'd idolatry,
Nor my beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse to constancy confin'd,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.
'Fair, kind, and true,' is all my argument,
'Fair, kind, and true,' varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.
     Fair, kind, and true, have often liv'd alone,
     Which three till now, never kept seat in one.

Sonnet 106
When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rime,
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have express'd
Even such a beauty as you master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And for they looked but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing:
     For we, which now behold these present days,
     Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.

Sonnet 107
Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confin'd doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assur'd,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time,
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rime,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes:
     And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
     When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.

Sonnet 108
What's in the brain, that ink may character,
Which hath not figur'd to thee my true spirit?
What's new to speak, what now to register,
That may express my love, or thy dear merit?
Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,
I must each day say o'er the very same;
Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
Even as when first I hallow'd thy fair name.
So that eternal love in love's fresh case,
Weighs not the dust and injury of age,
Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,
But makes antiquity for aye his page;
     Finding the first conceit of love there bred,
     Where time and outward form would show it dead.

Sonnet 109
O! never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seem'd my flame to qualify,
As easy might I from my self depart
As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie:
That is my home of love: if I have rang'd,
Like him that travels, I return again;
Just to the time, not with the time exchang'd,
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe though in my nature reign'd,
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stain'd,
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good;
     For nothing this wide universe I call,
     Save thou, my rose, in it thou art my all.

Sonnet 110
Alas! 'tis true, I have gone here and there,
And made my self a motley to the view,
Gor'd mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,
Made old offences of affections new;
Most true it is, that I have look'd on truth
Askance and strangely; but, by all above,
These blenches gave my heart another youth,
And worse essays prov'd thee my best of love.
Now all is done, save what shall have no end:
Mine appetite I never more will grind
On newer proof, to try an older friend,
A god in love, to whom I am confin'd.
     Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best,
     Even to thy pure and most most loving breast.


  1. In Sonnet 108, the speaker admits that he has run out of ways to describe the fair youth. However, “like prayers divine,” he feels compelled to continue repeating the same praises. By comparing his glorification of the youth to prayer, the speaker attributes a sense of divinity to the youth, despite his claim in Sonnet 105 that he does not view the youth as an idol. The speaker also strives to keep the love between the fair youth and him “fresh” through repeated praise. If he continues to praise the youth as he did when they first met, then the “wrinkles” that have marred the youth’s “outward form” can be ignored in favor of recalling his initial perfection.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Although the speaker purports not to worship the fair youth as an idol, he employs religious language to raise the status of the fair youth to that of a deity. For example, the speaker’s mention of “three themes in one” and the repetition of the refrain “‘fair, kind, and true’” three times resembles the language of the Holy Trinity. This Christian doctrine divides God into three parts: father, son, and holy spirit.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Referring to the fair youth as his “fair friend,” the speaker praises the fair youth for the youthfulness he has maintained despite the decaying force of time. Over the three-year period they have known one another, the fair youth’s beauty has remained “green” and “fresh.” However, at the volta, the tone of the sonnet shifts dramatically. The speaker admits to the depreciation of the youth’s beauty, which he likens to the movement of a dial or clock hand. Even the fair youth’s “sweet hue,” admits the speaker, “hath motion” and will eventually perish.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Continuing the theme of idolatry from Sonnets 105 and 108, the speaker rekindles the association between the fair youth and divinity. The speaker makes the connection more explicit by calling him “a god in love.” Just as a repentant sinner is welcomed back into the graces of God, so too does the speaker ask to be invited back into the “most loving breast” of the youth. The idea of sin staining the soul is part of Christian theology; the speaker has fittingly vowed to cleanse himself of the stain wrought by his infidelity. He reaffirms that his love “shall have no end” and that he will be “confin’d” to his love for the youth going forward, since the fair youth is the closest thing to heaven.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. The speaker continues to apologize for his dalliances. However, even though he was unfaithful, his “blenches,” or moments of infidelity, have made him realize that the fair youth is his “best” love. His heart has been given “another youth,” meaning that the speaker’s love for the fair youth has been made new again by exposure to lesser loves. It also implies that perhaps the speaker’s affairs were the product of his insecurity about his age, and that being desired by others has allowed him to experience “another youth” in the sense of a personal revivification.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Roses held a special meaning in Elizabethan thought, beyond merely beauty or romance. In the 12th century CE, religious veneration of the Virgin Mary began spreading rapidly, and roses became associated with purity. They were also connected with the monarchy through the use of family crests. The “Tudor Rose,” the symbol of the House of Tudor, represented the end of the “War of the Roses” (1455-1485) and the reunification of the divided nobility. Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, adopted the rose as her personal symbol, combining her family legacy and the image of purity to cement her legacy as the Virgin Queen. By comparing his beloved to a rose, the speaker is associating the fair youth with beauty, purity, and nobility.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The speaker admits to having had affairs with others while he was away from the youth. Their separation cooled the flames of the speaker’s passion, though he asserts that his heart was always with the fair youth. This sonnet represents an apology to the fair youth. The speaker promises to wash away the stain that infidelity has left on their relationship. Though lust overcame him while they were apart, the speaker would never truly leave the “sum of good” that is his relationship with the youth, since all other relationships are “nothing” compared to theirs.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The speaker decides to stand firm in his love instead of worrying about whether the youth will abandon him. He reaffirms his love for the youth and states that he will be true to his feelings regardless of what his fears or prophecies tell him. He also claims ownership of his “poor rime.” He suggests that even if poetry is insufficient to capture the full beauty of the fair youth, it may be enough to commemorate the two of them and escape death’s oblivion. The fair youth will be preserved in the poems and the speaker will be preserved along with him, one of the few occasions in which the speaker treats himself as a unique entity when discussing immortality.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. The noun “augurs” refers to fortune tellers, specifically those who interpret natural signs and omens such as bird migrations. In Act V, Scene II of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet responds to his friend Horatio’s concerns over his upcoming duel by saying, “Not a whit, we defy augury; there’s a special / Providence in the fall of a sparrow.” The “sad augurs” of Sonnet 107 echo and reflect this dismissal of omens and fortune. Even if the omens prove true, the speaker believes there is still merit in the pursuit of love.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. The speaker continues to excuse his silence by stating that it would be pointless for him to attempt to describe the fair youth. He claims his poetic skills are not enough to add anything worthwhile. If the fair youth wishes to be flattered, he would be better off looking in the mirror than trying to find meaningful descriptions in the speaker’s verse.Throughout the rest of the sonnet sequence, the fair youth served as inspiration for the speaker. Now, his Muse has become lazy, forgetful, and impoverished. Though the speaker claims it is an intentional show of restraint on his part, the condition of the Muse reflects the state of the relationship between the speaker and the youth—diminished.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. The speaker continues to showcase his altered attitude towards the fair youth. He insists that refraining from writing poetry about his beloved is a sign of increased love. Rather than maintaining the stance that it is his responsibility to write the fair youth’s beauty into verse, the poet instead focuses on personal aspects of their relationship. He does not wish to overwhelm his beloved with praises because he worries that the verse will grow “dull” if overdone. However, seeing as Sonnet 102 is surrounded by pleas to the Muse for inspiration, these sentiments may represent more of an excuse for his previously lamented silence than a genuine maturation of affection.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Philomel is a tragic figure from Greek mythology. After taking revenge on a man who assaulted her, Philomel was turned into a nightingale, a species of bird known for its beautiful song. In this instance, the speaker seems to be using “Philomel” as a stand-in for literal nightingales. Nightingales sing as they search for their mates during “summer’s front,” or spring, and stop singing once summer comes. This simile indicates that the speaker’s apparent silence is not due to a lack of love but rather the deepening of it. Just as nightingales stop singing once they find their mates, so too has the speaker stopped trying to woo his beloved with lavish verse.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. The speaker continues to chide his “truant Muse” for refusing to provide him with inspiration to write about the fair youth. He mockingly recalls the sentiments he expressed about the rival poet, asking his Muse if it has given up because it knows the youth’s beauty cannot be captured in verse. Sonnets 100-103 recall sentiments the speaker expressed passionately in earlier parts of the sequence, recasting them in a more irreverent light. As he mocks the source of his inspiration for its “dumb” silence, he recalls the arguments he made about how the youth’s beauty was tarnished by praise. When placed in the mouth of the Muse, such arguments become “dumb,” highlighting the speaker’s altered attitude.

    — Marissa, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. For in-depth look at “Sonnet 106,” read our expert analysis on its own page.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor