What's in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit?
What's new to speak, what now to register,
That may express my love, or thy dear merit?
Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,
I must each day say o'er the very same;
Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name.
So that eternal love in love's fresh case,
Weighs not the dust and injury of age,
Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,
But makes antiquity for aye his page;
Finding the first conceit of love there bred,
Where time and outward form would show it dead.
108 was the number of sonnets in Sidney's Astrophel and Stella, one of the most prominent and among the earliest of the sonnet sequences to be published in England, and certainly among the most influential. It was published in 1591, posthumously, but circulated in manuscript for eleven years before the date of publication, and was enormously influential in setting the pattern for subsequent writers. It is almost inevitable therefore that the poet, having reached this vantage point, takes stock of his condition and the progress of his love. Is there anything new to express, anything which might enhance his love, or the mutual love of lover and beloved? The conclusion is that, since love has been eternised, and always was eternal, the same prayers of devotion may be repeated over and over again, and love will remain fresh and green for ever, despite the ravages of time and ageing. In effect nothing has changed, and the first impulses of love, which brought into being their divine affection, remains as vital as ever, and with some surprise and joy the poet greets this discovery, and justifies once more to his friend the constancy and depth of his love, expressed though it is in old and worn out phrases.
The 1609 Quarto Version
WHat's in the braine that Inck may character ,
Which hath not figur'd to thee my true ſpirit,
What's new to ſpeake,what now to regiſter,
That may expreſſe my loue,or thy deare merit?
Nothing ſweet boy,but yet like prayers diuine,
I muſt each day ſay ore the very ſame,
Counting no old thing old,thou mine,I thine,
Euen as when firſt I hallowed thy faire name.
So that eternall loue in loues freſh caſe,
Waighes not the duſt and iniury of age,
Nor giues to neceſſary wrinckles place,
But makes antiquitie for aye his page,
Finding the firſt conceit of loue there bred,
Where time and outward forme would ſhew it dead.