My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date;
But when in thee time's furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days should expiate.
For all that beauty that doth cover thee,
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me:
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O! therefore, love, be of thyself so wary
As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.
Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain,
Thou gav'st me thine not to give back again.
Sonnets 20 - 32 present an ocean of relative tranquility, in which some minor matters of social difference appear to darken the horizon momentarily, and then pass away. Apart from that, the love which has been declared in 13, 15 and 19 But, love, you are etc.; dear my love, you know; 13. And all in war with time for love of you etc.; 15. my love's fair brow; My love shall in my verse ever live young; 19, is allowed to develop to full maturity. In this sonnet it is as if the point of no return has been reached. The expressions of care and tenderness, of love's togetherness and the prospect of youth growing old, of two hearts united in one, of the commitment of love until the severance of death, combine to make this a rare moment in the heart's history. Love triumphs over age and death. Yet in the background there is always the looking in the glass, the reflections in the mirror, so often evoked in these sonnets, which cast back one's own face beated and chopped with tanned antiquity, and the fair youth's face which must go the same way in the end.
There may well be a significance in the number alone of this sonnet, since multiples of 11 seem to exercise some sort of fascination for the writer. Thus 77 and 88 both step aside to look into the future, 66 renounces the world completely, 55 takes a grand and distant view of the passage of time. Although 33, 44 and 99 do not seem to have any special significance, (but see the commentary to 99 for its dating significance), it may be simply that we fail to see it, or that these numbers are not deemed to be as critical as the others and the various climacteric ones, such as 63, 70 and 81.
"Asleep at the wheel" - T. Coraghessan Boyle