The list of adjectives that begin at line three of Sonnet 129 echoes the pattern of lust. “Perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame, savage…” each increase in intensity and are read aloud with more fervor until the climax word “savage” is reached. By referring to lust as “savage” the speaker makes sexual desire sub-human; something not fit for a sophisticated man and something primal and instinctual. Only men not proper or ‘evolutionized’ enough could experience such “savage,” lustful desires. After the word “savage” the adjectives seem to calm down a bit, decreasing in intensity just as lust does after it is fulfilled.
After going through the pattern of lust and its ‘in-the-moment’ feelings, there is a pause in the poem marked by the semi-colon indicating the moment in life after indulging in lust when the feelings of guilt well up inside the victim. The speaker believes lust leads only to feelings of shame, portraying lust as an evil entity whose only goal is to “make the taker mad,” consuming its victims every thought, tricking him to thinking of the desire as a “joy proposed.” However, after submitting to the temptation, it becomes merely “a dream.” In this sense, I think the speaker means that once one gives into lust, the sexual act haunts him like a dream with shame and remorse. Also like a dream, the lust is a momentary fantasy that does not carry into reality.
I found the metaphor “as a swallowed bait” interesting in that it could have two interpretations. In one sense, this comparison could mean that when dealing with lust, man becomes victim, like a fish hooked. The man then wrestles with giving into temptation or remaining steadfast, just as a fish wrestles with being reeled in or not. The man thus becomes a victim to lust, unable to escape its entrapment. On the other hand, “as a swallowed bait” could refer to the person on the receiving end of the man wrestling with lust. The man dealing with lust treats his lover like bait, regarding her as a “possession” he must real in for his own satisfaction, rather than regarding her as a real person.
In the final couplet, the speaker reiterates that despite every man’s knowledge of the dangers of lust, no man can truly deny the temptations of lust that ultimately “leads men to this hell” because in the moment, the desires of lust are comparable to “heaven.”