Updated date:

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

The Shakespeare sonnets play an essential rôle in my poetry world. Those 154 classic sonnets masterfully dramatize truth, beauty, and love.

First Edition of Shakespeare Sonnets

First Edition of Shakespeare Sonnets

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 37: "As a decrepit father takes delight"

Creators of art have often described their relationship with their works as parent to child. The speaker in sonnet 37 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence 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 Blessèd 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"

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

Commentary

Addressing his sonnet as a father would a son, the speaker is dramatizing multifaceted ways by which his life is enhanced through his written creations.

First Quatrain: An Aged Father

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;

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: Creating from Fine Qualities

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:

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: Great Talent

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.

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: Writing Poetry Enhanced Happiness

Look what is best, that best I wish in thee:
This wish I have; then ten times happy me!

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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Related Articles