The poet admits his inferiority to the one who is now writing about the beloved, portraying the two poets as ships sailing on the ocean of the beloved’s worth—the rival poet as large and splendid and himself as a small boat that risks being wrecked by love.
O, how I faint when I of you do write, Knowing a better spirit doth use your name, And in the praise thereof spends all his might, 4To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame. But since your worth, wide as the ocean is, The humble as the proudest sail doth bear, My saucy bark, inferior far to his, 8On your broad main doth willfully appear. Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride, Or, being wracked, I am a worthless boat, 12He of tall building and of goodly pride. Then, if he thrive and I be cast away, The worst was this: my love was my decay.