Those lines that I before have writ do lie,
Even those that said I could not love you dearer:
Yet then my judgment knew no reason why
My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer.
But reckoning Time, whose million'd accidents
Creep in 'twixt vows, and change decrees of kings,
Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp'st intents,
Divert strong minds to the course of altering things;
Alas! why, fearing of Time's tyranny,
Might I not then say, 'Now I love you best,'
When I was certain o'er incertainty,
Crowning the present, doubting of the rest?
Love is a babe, then might I not say so,
To give full growth to that which still doth grow?
Comparisons are often made between this sonnet and the love poem by John Donne, Love's Growth, part of which is given below. Lovers Infiniteness by the same poet is also relevant. These poems by John Donne are probably of a similar date to this sonnet, so we may be assured that metaphysical speculations of this sort were current among the literary fraternity of the time.
The poet marvels how his love can still seem to increase, even though in times past he claimed that it was impossible to love with any greater love than he knew at the time. Yet, on looking back, he finds that his love has grown miraculously even beyond that complete measure which he thought was the limit of its fulfilment. He concludes that, since love is a babe, (Cupid), he cannot know how to define himself, or acknowledge any limitations to his growth, even though, as a full and perfect God he can in theory not be any better than he is already.
John Donne LOVE'S GROWTH. c. 1593-1601.
I scarce believe my love to be so pure
As I had thought it was,
Because it doth endure
Vicissitude and season, as the grass;
Me thinks I lied all winter, when I swore
My love was infinite, if spring make it more.
LOVERS INFINITENESSE c. 1593-1601.
If yet I have not all thy love,
Dear, I shall never have it all,
Yet I would not have all yet,
He that hath all can have no more,
And since my love doth every day admit
New growth, thou shouldst have new rewards in store;
Thou canst not every day give me thy heart,
If thou canst give it, then thou never gavest it:
Love's riddles are, that though thy heart depart,
It stays at home, and thou with losing savest it:
But we will have a way more liberal
Than changing hearts, to joyne them, so we shall
Be one, and one anothers All.
The 1609 Quarto Version
THoſe lines that I before haue writ doe lie,
Euen thoſe that ſaid I could not loue you deerer,
Yet then my iudgement knew no reaſon why,
My moſt full flame ſhould afterwards burne cleerer.
But reckening time,whoſe milliond accidents
Creepe in twixt vowes,and change decrees of Kings,
Tan ſacred beautie,blunt the ſharp'ſt intents,
Diuert ſtrong mindes to th' courſe of altring things:
Alas why fearing of times tiranie,
Might I not then ſay now I loue you beſt,
When I was certaine ore in-certainty,
Crowning the preſent,doubting of the reſt:
Loue is a Babe , then might I not ſay ſo
To giue full growth to that which ſtill doth grow.