In Sonnet 64, the poet is portrayed as a historian, philosopher, and antiquarian who dreams of time's relentless destruction of ancient glories. Monuments that reflect the noblest ideas of humankind — castles, churches, and cities — will one day be "confounded to decay."
Sonnet 64 is remarkably similar to Sonnet 60, yet each sonnet concludes in a very different tone. Many of the same images are found in both sonnets: the ocean's tireless pounding of the shore; the give-and-take battle between water and the land; and the use of the word "confound" to characterize time's ceaseless progress. However, whereas Sonnet 60's concluding couplet evokes feelings of high-spirited joy and confidence, Sonnet 64 ends in despair: The poet is now certain that death will "take my love away," but he no longer seems satisfied that his verse will ensure the youth's immortality. The sonnet's last two lines convey a grievous, depressing tone: "This thought is as a death, which cannot choose / But weep to have that which it fears to lose." The poet finally acknowledges the youth's — and his own — mortality.