If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover,
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bettering of the time,
And though they be outstripp'd by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O, then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
'Had my friend's Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died, and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love.'
XXXII. In accordance with the view of Furnivall and Dowden, this Sonnet is probably the Envoy to the series xxvii-xxxii. As the poet has survived many of his former friends (cf. two preceding Sonnets), so Mr. W. H. may survive the poet. And in time to come there may be a general improvement of poetical style. But this improved style will not express a greater intensity of affection. [Please click here for more].
1. My well-contented day. If this expression implies satisfaction with the world, then there is a marked difference of feeling between this Sonnet and others following, e.g. lxvi. The expression "well-contented" may, however, be understood possibly as implying that the poet would, whenever the summons to depart may come, desire no further prolongation of a life which was not to be coveted. But, in the case of poems like these Sonnets, there need be little difficulty in admitting a variation in the feeling expressed.
Thoughts on the Sonnets... "In literary value Shakespeare's sonnets are notably unequal. Many reach levels of lyric melody and meditative energy that are hardly to be matched elsewhere in poetry. The best examples are charged with the mellowed sweetness of rhythm and metre, the depth of thought and feeling, the vividness of imagery and the stimulating fervour of expression which are the finest proofs of poetic power. On the other hand, many sink almost into inanity beneath the burden of quibbles and conceits. In both their excellences and their defects Shakespeare's sonnets betray near kinship to his early dramatic work, in which passages of the highest poetic temper at times alternate with unimpressive displays of verbal jugglery." (Sir Sidney Lee. A Life of William Shakespeare, p. 87)