Because of the times of when the engagement broke off and when she wrote this sonnet, the meaning behind it could be a very indirect goodbye note to her fiance.
That god forbid, that made me first your slave, I should in thought control your times of pleasure, Or at your hand the account of hours to crave, Being your vassal, bound to stay your leisure!
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting, And so my patent back again is swerving. Against my love shall be as I am now, With Time's injurious hand crushed and o'erworn; When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn Hath travelled on to age's steepy night; And all those beauties whereof now he's king Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight, Stealing away the treasure of his spring; For such a time do I now fortify Against confounding age's cruel knife, That he shall never cut from memory My sweet love's beauty, though my lover's life: His beauty shall in these black lines be seen, And they shall live, and he in them still green.
Were it not sinful then, striving to mend, To mar the subject that before was well? My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming; I love not less, though less the show appear; That love is merchandized, whose rich esteeming, The owner's tongue doth publish every where.
Nativity, once in the main of light, Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd, Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight, And Time that gave doth now his gift confound. From fairest creatures we desire increase, That thereby beauty's rose might never die, But as the riper should by time decease, His tender heir might bear his memory: But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes, Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel, Making a famine where abundance lies, Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel: Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament, And only herald to the gaudy spring, Within thine own bud buriest thy content, And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding: Pity the world, or else this glutton be, To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.
Such is my love, to thee I so belong, That for thy right, myself will bear all wrong. To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I ey'd, Such seems your beauty still.
With mine own weakness being best acquainted, Upon thy part I can set down a story Of faults concealed, wherein I am attainted; That thou in losing me shalt win much glory: And I by this will be a gainer too; For bending all my loving thoughts on thee, The injuries that to myself I do, Doing thee vantage, double-vantage me.
Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit, To thee I send this written embassage, To witness duty, not to show my wit: Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it, But that I hope some good conceit of thine In thy soul's thought, all naked, will bestow it: Till whatsoever star that guides my moving, Points on me graciously with fair aspect, And puts apparel on my tottered loving, To show me worthy of thy sweet respect: Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee; Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me.