Summary and Analysis Sonnet 48



The youth keeps the poet on edge, and once again we see the poet's bondage to the relationship. The poet develops a metaphorical contrast between being robbed of physical possessions and losing emotional ties to the young man. This loss that he so fears is already in the making, and only he seems unable to recognize the youth's growing rejection of him. "Thee have I not locked up in any chest," he says to the youth, but then he mitigates this thought by continuing, "Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art, / Within the gentle closure of my breast . . ." The self-contradiction lies in the poet's acknowledging the youth's emotional distance from him but then refusing to believe this truth.

Of greatest concern to the poet is the youth's inability to protect himself from scurrilous suitors. Even the poet's mistress comes under fire: As the object of her affection, the youth is "the prey of every vulgar thief." This reference to thievery unites the sonnet, for in line 4 the poet speaks of "hands of falsehood," and the concluding couplet more directly addresses the poet's greatest fear: "And even thence thou wilt be stol'n, I fear, / For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear." Ironically, here the poet seems most worried that his complete acceptance of the fact that the youth is spurning him will be the greatest — and most fearful — "truth" of all.