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The themes of this sonnet can be traced throughout Shakespeare's sonnet cycle, particularly the early part. Shakespeare, in his sonnets 1–126, is particularly concerned with the passage of time and how it affects beauty, and also with how quickly time passes and leaves that beauty to exist only in writing. We can see this in the opening to this sonnet:

When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights . . .
The speaker seems here to be referring to literal chronicles, or writings, but also simply to the metaphorical chronicle of time that has been "wasted" over the years. There is an implication that the "fairest wights" (wight is an older word that simply means people) have been "wasted" by time themselves, in a way. Their beauty has been recorded, but in real life, it has faded.
In a way, then, there is some joy to be found in the fact that this beauty has not been forgotten, even though it has died. The speaker is able to look at what has been...

(The entire section is 351 words.)