Summary and Analysis Sonnet 99



Sonnet 99 is an in-depth explanation of how the natural objects from lines 11 and 12 in the previous sonnet pale in comparison to the young man's beauty: "They were but sweet, but figures of delight, / Drawn after you, you pattern of all those." A charming artificiality in this sonnet illustrates the kind of lavish and elaborate praise the poet could write to win the youth's favor. Ironically, however, the sonnet also shows the poet's equivocal attitude in condemning such hyperbole: He practices what he criticizes.

Comprising fifteen lines instead of the usual fourteen, the sonnet seems an ingenious exercise in compliment rather than an expression of simple feeling. The first line — "The forward violet thus did I chide" — acts as a prelude, and the sonnet proper, composed of the next fourteen lines, describes exactly what this chiding entails. Wherever the poet looks in nature, he finds colors, smells, and shapes that mimic — and thereby steal from — the youth's beauty. Essentially he argues that the youth is the originating source from which nature draws its many hues and odors: "More flowers I noted, yet I none could see / But sweet or color it had stol'n from thee." The carefully wrought verse seems more an exercise in poetry-writing than it does an expression of genuine emotion.