"Sonnet 12" was first published along with the rest of Shakespeare's sonnets in 1609, though scholars believe he wrote the poem in the 1590s. Like many of Shakespeare's sonnets, the poem laments the frailty and impermanence of beauty and personifies "Time," which takes that beauty away, as its antagonist. The poem is part of Shakespeare's "Fair Youth" sequence, a group of poems addressed to a handsome young man with whom the speaker has an intimate relationship. Within this sequence, "Sonnet 12" belongs more specifically to a subset of poems known as the "procreation sonnets," which encourage the handsome youth to marry and have children. Here, the speaker urges the Fair Youth to reproduce specifically as a way of leaving some of his beauty behind and, therefore, defying Time.