As a decrepit father takes
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.
The 1609 Quarto Version
AS a decrepit father takes delight,
To ſee his actiue childe do deeds of youth,
So I , made lame by Fortunes deareſt ſpight
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
Intitled in their parts,do crowned ſit,
I make my loue ingrafted to this ſtore:
So then I am not lame,poore, nor diſpiſ'd,
Whilſt that this ſhadow doth ſuch ſubſtance giue,
That I in thy abundance am ſuffic'd,
And by a part of all thy glory liue:
Looke what is beſt,that beſt I wiſh in thee,
This wiſh I haue,then ten times happy me.