SONNET NO. 126
0, thou my lovely boy, who in thy power,
Doth hold time's fickle glass-his fickle hour,
Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st,
Thy lovers withering as thy sweet self grow'st,
If nature (Sovereigne mistress over wrack),
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill,
May time disgrace and wretched minutes kill.
Yet fear her, 0 thou minion of her pleasure,
She may detain, but not still keep her treasure,
Her audit (though delayed), answer'd must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.
By waning grown--become more beautiful instead of waning by growing older.
Therein showest-showest thereby, i.e. by the contrast.
6th Line. Pluck thee back, i.e. by maintaining your beauty.
8th Line. May time disgrace-by proving it ineffective.
12th Line. Quietus-receipt, i.e. he is quit.
The lovely boy referred to in the first line of this sonnet is
clearly Cupid-the Roman love God-identified with the Greek
love God Eros.
We are told that love-who in his power holds time's fickle (changeable) glass (mirror) which shows lovers withering (languishing) as love grows-that nature which is the sovereigne(supreme) mistress over wrack (destruction) will pluck love back as it proceeds-that nature's skill may be by time disgraced-that love, which is a minion (favourite) of nature may be detained (held back) but that nature's audit (examination of accounts) although delayed must be answered and her quietus (putting to silence-)is to render love. It will be seen that the last two lines of this sonnet are missing. This being the only one out of 154 sonnets which has only 12 lines instead of 14. The reason for this has yet to be discovered.