The theme of absence continues with the youth away. The poet first describes April in a buoyant tone, and says that even "heavy Saturn," which during the Elizabethan period was thought to influence dark and gloomy behavior in people, "laughed and leapt" during this spring.
The typical reversal expected in the sonnets, either in the third quatrain or in the concluding couplet, appears early in Sonnet 98, coming at the beginning of the second quatrain with the word "Yet." That this change of fortune comes so early emphasizes just how despondent the poet is while separated from the young man. Neither birds nor flowers grant relief from his depressed emotional state, for he compares these spring and summer objects of beauty to the youth's beauty and concludes that they are imperfect copies of his friend's appearance: "They were but sweet, but figures of delight, / Drawn after you, you pattern of all those."
Recalling the previous sonnet, the poet again thinks of his separation from the young man as a barren winter. No longer critical of the youth, rather he becomes apologetic for the feeble nature of his verse, as though he is merely passing the time by writing frivolous sonnets while he is away from his beloved: "Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away, / As with your shadow I with these did play." The poet's use of the term "shadow" is similar to when he dreamt of the youth in earlier sonnets; this reference again demonstrates just how much the poet has regressed to his earlier, dependent attitude toward the youth.