«Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
My verse alone had all thy gentle grace».
Sonnet 79 presents the first specific reference to a rival poet who vies for the young man’s affections. Without losing his sense of moral superiority, the poet bitterly resents the other poet.
Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
His first response to the challenge is feeble and characteristically modest: “I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument / Deserves the travail of a worthier pen.” However, this modesty completely contradicts the sentiment of the next two lines: “Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent / He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.”
The rival poet boasts that he makes the young man beautiful in his verse, and yet, the poet argues, this rival cannot create the beauty that the poet has already discovered in the youth: The youth lends beauty to the verse, not the verse to the youth. Although the poet’s anger at the rival poet is understated, five times in the sonnet he warns the young man of the rival poet’s claiming to invent beauty in the young man’s appearance.
English audio from YouTube Channel Socratica
Summary from Cliffsnotes.com