Summary and Analysis Sonnet 71



In this and the next three sonnets, the poet's mood becomes increasingly morbid. Here he anticipates his own death: "No longer mourn for me when I am dead / . . . / From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell." The elegiac mood expresses a sense of loss as much for the poet's departed youth as for the actual prospect of death. Note that the poet characterizes the world as "vile," a strong condemnation of the age in which artificial beauty is more cherished than the young man's natural beauty.

The poet asks the young man not to grieve for him when he is dead, or even remember his name. Never wanting to cause the youth pain, the poet is afraid that, if the young man grieves for him, his woeful thoughts will replace any loving affection he may still have for the poet. Because the young man does not appear to be as infatuated with the poet as the poet is with the young man, such sentiment on the poet's part is rather presumptuous, especially when he then adds, "But let your love even with my life decay." Given the youth's slighting the poet earlier in the sonnets, at this point it would not be unreasonable to ask what "love" the poet thinks the youth still has for him.

In the final couplet, the poet urges the youth not to grieve for him "Lest the wise world should look into your moan / And mock you with me after I am gone." Again the poet is more concerned about the young man's reputation than he is about his own.