Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother,
For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime:
So thou through windows of thine age shall see
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remember'd not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.
The general subject is continued from Sonnets 1 and 2, with the poet presenting a new argument as to why his young friend should start a family. The young man need only look at his own mother to see how important his youth and beauty are to her, as a constant reminder of "the lovely April of her prime" (10). The poet urges the young man to let another woman experience this joy, by having his children, and he too will benefit from seeing in his child his former "golden time" (12).
fresh repair (3): healthy state.
beguile (4): cheat.
unear'd (5): unploughed (the friend has yet to plant his seed).
fond (7): foolish.
glass (9): mirror.
remember'd not to be (13): i.e., simply to be forgotten.
Did You Know? ... A nineteenth-century German critic named D. Barnstorff published a book in which he argued that the sonnets are addressed to none other than Shakespeare himself. Needless to say Barnstorff's work was not embraced by the academic community. Regarding Sonnet 3 he writes:
"Recognize thyself in the mirror of thine own truthfulness; -- exclaims Shakespeare to his inner being. -- Acknowledge the admirable beauty of thine ego: -- Thou beguilest the world, mankind; a mother (Art) is deprived by thee of an effective, abundant fructification,
if thou give not from thee thy imaginings, if thou permit thy intellectual essence to pass away. What sphere of
human activity, what province of science, or of art would have been too high to be mastered by his capacities? His mother's (Nature's) glass is his genius: -- In that she calls back the lovely April of her prime. And
when the bright eyes of thy youth shall have become
glazed (this may refer to the classic period of Grecian
literature and art); -- then wilt thou be enabled to see in thy works this thy golden time. But if thou live
without the ambition of being remembered, -- die unwedded (to Art) and thine image (thine imaginings)
will die with thee." (A Key to Shakespeare's Sonnets, p. 24.)