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Shakespeare Sonnet 37: "As a decrepit father takes delight"

Updated on September 29, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

"William Shakespeare" is the nom de plume of Edward de Vere.
"William Shakespeare" is the nom de plume of Edward de Vere. | Source

 Shakespeare Sonnet Titles in My Article Titles

The Shakespeare Sonnet sequence does not feature titles for each sonnet; therefore, each sonnet's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel: "When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text." APA does not address this issue.

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 37

Creators of art have often described their relationship with their works as parent to child. The speaker in sonnet 37 is framing his discussion this way. As he addresses his poem, he is revealing that he feels for his poetic creations as he would for a child.

The poem, because it reflects so much of its writer's qualities, may be thought of as the offspring of its writer. The speaker finds his comfort and joy in his poems. He possesses through his art a pride of accomplishment.

The speaker may feel even more pride in a poem that he has created, knowing that he alone is responsible for its worth. As God has given humans the ability to procreate, the Blessed Divine has also given them the power to create.

Creating art is a significant way that the human mind can reflect itself in colorful and useful productions.

Sonnet 37

As a decrepit father takes delight
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 despis’d,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am suffic’d,
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!

Reading of Shakespeare Sonnet 37

First Quatrain: “As a decrepit father takes delight”

In the first quatrain, the speaker compares his lot in life to an aged father who can take comfort only in his son’s life and achievements and ability to continue living the life of youth and young adulthood.

Again, the speaker is addressing his poetry; his poetry is like his son because the speaker’s creativity gives the poetry life. So the speaker, because of his poetry, can say to his poem: “I // Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth.”

Second Quatrain: “For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit”

The speaker then asserts that regardless of whether the positive qualities of “beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit” actually garner accolades from others, he knows that he creates from these positive qualities.

The speaker strives to create beauty in his poetry, and his talent, he believes, is equal to the effort.

The speaker avers that he knows his own mind and heart, and whether his creations are held up like royalty or not, he has attached his love to his works.

Third Quatrain: “So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis’d”

Because of his great talent, the speaker knows he is not “lame, poor, nor despis’d.” In the “shadow” of his creations, he can live abundantly.

The speaker is “suffic’d” by the glory of is works, but he claims only a part of that glory, giving much credit to the mystery that is talent.

The speaker in this sonnet’s portrayal harkens back to his plea to the young man to marry and have children who would glorify the young man’s old age.

The speaker in this group of poems shows how his poetry saves him from decrepitude and how his love and essence are reflected in his poetic creations.

The Couplet: “Look what is best, that best I wish in thee”

The speaker recounts that he is ten times as happy as he would be without his talent in writing poetry.

The speaker thus invites the poem to look at what is best and realize that all of the speaker’s wishes rest with poem.

Because the speaker is lucky enough to entertain such a wish, he is, in fact, blessed with many levels of happiness.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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