Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
If Thou Survive
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
IF 1 thou survive my well-contented day
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover,
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceasèd lover, 2
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,        5
And though they be outstripped by every pen, 3
Reserve 4 them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,        10
A dearer birth than this his love had brought
To march in ranks of better equipage:
  But since he died, and poets better prove,
  Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.’
 
Note 1. Sonnet xxxii. in Shake-speare’s Sonnettes, 1609. From the thought of dead friends of whom he is the survivor. Shakespeare passes to the thought of his own death, and his friend as the survivor. This sonnet reads like an envoy. (Dowden.) [back]
Note 2. Thy deceased lover: The term was used by writers of the Elizabethan age generally for one who loves another, without the meaning of a special passion of love between man and woman. [back]
Note 3. Lines 5–6, Compare them … every pen: “May we infer from these lines (and 10),” asks Prof. Dowden, “that Shakespeare had a sense of the wonderful progress of poetry in the time of Elizabeth?” [back]
Note 4. Reserve: preserve. [back]
 
 
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