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Myself corrupting, salving Thy amiss,
That I an accessary needs must be
In this stanza he clears up any possible doubt of the meaning of the previous stanza, and virtually acknowledges the arrangement to have been of his own seeking. Thou (Truth) is told not to grieve, as his offence is a very natural one. It is no worse than a thorn to a rose, mud to a silver fountain, or canker to a bud. So also of the shame of Shakespeare. Your fault is no worse than the faults which all men make. By authorizing it, he (Bacon) has corrupted himself, and is more to be despised than Shakespeare, whose fault appears greater than it really is. The sensual or shameful part of it he alone is responsible for, as the conflict in his feelings has necessarily made him the "accessary” of Thou, “that sweet thief,” in the arrangement. In plainer phrase, he is the only person blamable in the affair.
Let Me confess that we two must be twain,
In our two loves there is but one respect,
But do not so; I love Thee in such sort
As, Thou being Mine, Mine is Thy good report. In this and the three following stanzas, addressed to Thy (Thought), he tells him what his plan is for concealing from the public the part he is to play in the composition of the dramas. He and Shakespeare must live divided (“ be twain"), in other words, they must live as if strangers to each other. Their objects (“ loves ") are of course undivided. But by this arrangement, none of the stains which affect him now, or none that he may hereafter incur, will ever reach Shakespeare or the dramas. Their object in common is to compose and present the plays. It is a business,-a partnership, nothing more. In their lives there is a "separable spite” (Bacon is a lawyer of noble family, soon to become a courtier, politician, statesman, and public officer, liable at any time to occupy high position, and to be ennobled by Elizabeth; Shakespeare is a young actor at · Blackfriars, and his habits and occupation will forbid his access to the society of which Bacon is an ornament). This great difference in their lives and pursuits will “alter not love's sole effect” (not disturb the great
object of making money in their business), whatever its influence over their social relations. A time may come when Bacon will find it necessary to ignore Shakespeare, to save him from the mishaps of his own life. He may be obliged to cease writing, and then Thou (Truth) will no longer honor him in theatrical representation, unless Thou should take the honor from Shakespeare's own labors. He advises Shakespeare against engaging in any such labors, because Thou (Truth) is his own henchman, and the plays he has written “Thy good report” (are the product of his own thoughts).
Look, what is best, that best I wish in Thee:
Continuing the address to Thy, he prefigures in this stanza the relationship which he wishes to fill towards Shakespeare. As a father, deprived by his infirmities from mingling in the affairs of society, takes great pleasure in the enterprise and business habits of his son, so he, "made lame by fortune's dearest spite” (cut off by the death of his father from the privileges, enjoyments, and titles which he was encouraged to anticipate in his youth), will supply their place by watchful and gratifying interest in Shakespeare's “worth and truth” (in the public appreciation of his dramas, as they appear in Shakespeare's name). By adding to their “beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,” or to any other qualities which their "parts” require, he will overcome and forget his misfortunes and deprivations. They will be a source of great delight to him as long as they afford him ample
“That I in Thy abundance am suffic'd” (and his part of the proceeds affords him à livelihood), “and by a part of all Thy glory live” (as he is convinced that Shakespeare means well, is honest and true, he is more than satisfied with the arrangement they have entered into).
And he that calls on Thee, let him bring forth
If My slight Muse do please these curious days,
In this stanza he tells how greatly he has been relieved in his circumstances by this partnership with Shakespeare. He can write now, and Thou (Truth), being ever ready to assist him and pour his “own sweet argument into his verse" (the history of his dramatic works into this poem), which of itself excels that of other writers, he will not want for subjects to write about, or invention. But Shakespeare may thank himself for it if the plays are a success. It is the money, and the ease and freedom from care which that brings, that empowers him to write; but it is Thou (Truth), as well as Thyself (Thought delineated), which gives "invention light” (enables him to present his dramas to the world). Thou (Truth) is the “tenth Muse”; he will “bring forth eternal numbers” (produce immortal lines). If this poem arouses any curiosity in the public, let all the sorrow it contains be his, and all the “praise” Shakespeare's.