But do thy worst to steal thyself away,
For term of life thou art assured mine;
And life no longer than thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of thine.
Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,
When in the least of them my life hath end.
I see a better state to me belongs
Than that which on thy humour doth depend:
Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind,
Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie.
O what a happy title do I find,
Happy to have thy love, happy to die!
But what's so blessed-fair that fears no blot?
Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not.
This sonnet may be read as a piece of defensive sophistry against the threatened demise of love. The bold assertion that love will persist for the natural term of life, if not for all eternity, responds to a distant echo of the more famous Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
But here there is no such confident defiance of time, for the beloved's unfaithfulness is almost a foregone conclusion and is characterised by such unflattering descriptions as stealing away, the worst of wrongs, thy humour, inconstant mind, revolt, being false. The only escape is the mystical one of becoming one of the souls of the blest in some Avalon
'Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly'.
But unfortunately this blessed paradise is shattered by the intruding consciousness of betrayal, a recognition of which has been smothered by the determined irrationality of the body of the poem, and the escape from pain achieved by sudden death. The concluding thought however seems to allow that even the bliss of heaven may be tainted by the memory of loss, and that there is no paradise anywhere in the universe.
SB (p.298) notes that Two Gentlemen of Verona V.4.108-20 employs many themes and words that also occur in this sonnet. The words common to both are love, blot, inconstant(cy), blest (blessed), happy. The thematic links are that Proteus is a flawed and feckless character who attempts to betray Julia, and the youth of the sonnets is a similar character. Also that the speakers envisage themselves to be blest and in heaven by being reunited with their loved ones.
However the agonised and despairing tone of this sonnet separates it somewhat from the easy solution that the denouement of TGV offers. There the lovers are reunited in bliss, here the rankling sense that something is seriously wrong continues.
The 1609 Quarto Version
BVt doe thy worſt to ſteale thy ſelfe away,
For tearme of life thou art aſſured mine,
And life no longer then thy loue will ſtay,
For it depends vpon that loue of thine.
Then need I not to feare the worſt of wrongs,
When in the leaſt of them my life hath end,
I ſee,a better ſtate to me belongs
Then that,which on thy humor doth depend.
Thou canſt not vex me with inconſtant minde,
Since that my life on thy reuolt doth lie,
Oh what a happy title do I find ,
Happy to haue thy loue,happy to die!
But whats ſo bleſſed faire that feares no blot,
Thou maiſt be falce, and yet I know it not.