When thou shalt be disposed to set me light,
And place my merit in the eye of scorn,
Upon thy side, against myself I'll fight,
And prove thee virtuous, though thou art forsworn.
With mine own weakness being best acquainted,
Upon thy part I can set down a story
Of faults concealed, wherein I am attainted;
That thou in losing me shalt win much glory:
And I by this will be a gainer too;
For bending all my loving thoughts on thee,
The injuries that to myself I do,
Doing thee vantage, double-vantage me.
Such is my love, to thee I so belong,
That for thy right, myself will bear all wrong.
This is another of those sonnets which look to the future, and it is placed at this juncture because, as with 49, the number is thought to be of some significance. 49 is one of the climacteric numbers, and 88, being 8 x 11, was no doubt also thought to have some critical significance. Perhaps double eight in itself (i.e two eights placed side by side), was symbolic of a union between humans, as the number 8 looks slightly like a human figure. HV claims that much ingenuity is expended in doubling words and phrases, culminating in 'vantage, double-vantage' in line 12. However it must be admitted that the repetitions are not all that obvious, although the entire sonnet does mimic 49 and repeats the arguments that are set out there. (The two sonnets are given at the bottom of this page).
The poet undertakes to defend the beloved when, in the fulness of time, he himself will be cast aside and denigrated as an object unworthy of love. Since he is so well acquainted with his own faults he can use that knowledge to justify the future desertion. What is more, since the youth's abandonment of him will seem like virtue and acquire him glory, the speaker will benefit too. For any benefit that accrues to the beloved is a benefit also to the one who loves him. Such is the contradictory nature of love that all wrong becomes right and all wrongs can be borne for the sake of the loved one, and become rights in themselves.
The 1609 Quarto Version
WHen thou ſhalt be diſpode to ſet me light,
And place my merrit in the eie of skorne,
Vpon thy ſide,againſt my ſelfe ile fight,
And proue thee virtuous,though thou art forſworne:
With mine owne weakeneſſe being beſt acquainted,
Vpon thy part I can ſet downe a ſtory
Of faults conceald,wherein I am attainted :
That thou in looſing me,ſhall win much glory:
And I by this wil be a gainer too,
For bending all my louing thoughts on thee,
The iniuries that to my ſelfe I doe,
Doing thee vantage,duble vantage me.
Such is my loue,to thee I ſo belong,
That for thy right,my ſelfe will beare all wrong.