How may I fully express the thrill of flattery that I felt as I unfolded thy note and discovered those two sonnets written for my eyes alone, not for some other supposed vision of perfection! But my pleasure was short-lived, for though the lines sounded sweet, to tell the truth, I could not at first make head nor tale of them. I was forced to spend a full hour unraveling their serpentine turns of phrase, and, to be frank, sir, thy sonnets are not as attractive as first they appeared. Poetic verse really is quite the cloying perfume. Dissolve it with a good bucket of prose and thou wilt be able discern the wearer’s true sourness.
I do not quarrel with thy first conclusion that “…never resting time leads Summer on, to hideous winter and confounds him there.” I know, as do all with any sense, that one far off day my eyes will loose their luster, my hair will whiten, and my skin will shrivel. There is not much gallantry in reminding me of that. What is more, thy solution to this natural ill does not seem very efficacious: “That’s for thy self to breed an other thee.” Hast thou perhaps spent too much time in the company of my mother? For she and thee are alike in thy eagerness for me to bear children. Yet, it cannot help but occur to me that producing children will most likely leave me bereft of beauty much more quickly than natural aging. And, though a parent may be fair, who is to say that their offspring shall be likewise as lovely? A tree may be strong, and yet bear wormy fruit. Or perhaps there shall be no fruit at all. Hast thou not considered that?
Of course thou hast not. Thou seest but a rosy world where rosy women have their own rosy babes. Thy sonnets are constant in their idolization of my beauty and the need to preserve it, as if nothing else about me mattered, not even myself. “Be not self-willed,” thou sayest, “for thou art much too fair, to be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.” When the frost has finally done its work, it seems as if none shall mourn any aspect of my character, nor any good work I have done. My appearance is all I shall be missed for, and heaven help my soul should I have failed to produce any natural progeny.
Be that as it may, I yet propose another course of conduct. As thou suggest: “Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness every where, then were not summer’s distillation left a liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass…flowers distilled though they with winter meet, leese but their show, their substance lives sweet.” I shalt take thy first advice, and disregard thy second. Deep roots are not reached by the frost, and thus I shalt keep summer’s distillation in my heart. I will do so, and perhaps, when winter has done its outer work, and I lie barren upon my deathbed, those nearby will remember me, myself, in love, and not cluck their tongues in pity for what is lost.
To come to the point, sir, it seems that thou art infatuated with my beauty and its supposed contagion. Not a sonnet I have received has been addressed in praise of any other facet of me. Thus, sir, I must order you to stop hanging round. Depart and attempt to ensnare some other bird with thy tangled web of pretty little words. After all, my parents have not been much pleased with my unfortunate fancy for a mere scribbler.
Yours (no more),