Take all my loves, my
love, yea take them all;
What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?
No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call;
All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more.
Then, if for my love, thou my love receivest,
I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest;
But yet be blam'd, if thou thy self deceivest
By wilful taste of what thyself refusest.
I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief,
Although thou steal thee all my poverty:
And yet, love knows it is a greater grief
To bear love's wrong, than hate's known injury.
Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows,
Kill me with spites yet we must not be foes.
This is one of the most desolate sonnets in the entire series. Desperate situations call for desperate remedies, and the poet casts around to find a way out of his misery. He cannot disguise the naked fact that his beloved youth has behaved treacherously and stolen his mistress. This and the following two sonnets try to come to terms with the reality of the deception and loss. The initial exclamation springs as it were from exhaustion, as if having examined all possible motives for the actions of the youth, he can find no justification therein and decides to throw in the towel. Let his beloved have all his loves, for they are valueless compared to the love which he feels for the youth. Yet immediately doubts begin to resurface. The beloved's motives are called into question once more. Did he really believe that he could augment his store of love by adding the poet's mistress? Or did he not rather deliberately deceive himself, and act out of sheer wantoness, with no thought of the other's hurt? But perhaps that is too gross an accusation. Whatever the motives, forgiveness is the best course, for something must be salvaged from the wreck. Even so, querulousness cannot be supressed and the beloved comes close to being depicted as the worst sort of thief stealing a miserable pensioner's last savings. The proverbial thought is cited that the harm a lover's wrong can do is far greater than injuries caused by an enemy. The closing couplet tries to rescue the situation, and its very weakness seems to give it its strength, a strength greater than any linguistic tour-de-force could have provided. It is the drowning man clutching at straws - 'Destroy me, yet we must remain friends. I have nothing else left to which I can make appeal. If I abandon this rock on which my life rests, that my love for you is above all other eventualities, then all is lost and I am doomed. So I will turn away from your wrongs and maintain my friendship with you despite everything.'
These three sonnets, 40-42, are matched by three in the dark lady sequence, 133, 134 and 144, and probably relate to the same incident or series of incidents. The reasons for the current arrangement are not known, and we may only speculate that the poet perhaps wished the three later sonnets, addressed to his mistress to balance these three written to the youth.
It is noticeable that this sonnet uses the word 'love' considerably more than in any other sonnet (10 times, as love, love's or loves). This may be an expression of the fact that the poet feels his love more threatened than at any other time, and by repetition of the word he will cast a spell by it and prevent it from flying away.
The 1609 Quarto Version
TAke all my loues,my loue,yea take them all,
What haſt thou then more then thou hadſt before?
No loue, my loue,that thou maiſt true loue call,
All mine was thine,before thou hadſt this more:
Then if for my loue,thou my loue receiueſt,
I cannot blame thee,for my loue thou vſeſt,
But yet be blam'd,if thou this ſelfe deceaueſt
By wilfull taſte of what thy ſelfe refuſeſt.
I doe forgiue thy robb'rie gentle theefe
Although thou ſteale thee all my pouerty:
And yet loue knowes it is a greater griefe
To beare loues wrong,then hates knowne injury.
Laſciuious grace,in whom all il wel ſhowes,
Kill me with ſpights yet we must not be foes.