Sonnet 4

by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE ((1564-1616)

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty’s legacy?
Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
And being frank she lends to those are free:
Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive:
Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
   Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,
   Which, used, lives th’ executor to be.

Shakespeare Droeshout Engravings Print

In the 1860s, German author Diedrich Barnstorff seemed to think that Shakespeare was talking to himself: “How like the monologue of Hamlet! That which the favour of nature has planted in us is not there to be buried and unemployed — hoarded like a miser’s treasure. It is, as a germ, to amalgamate with other parts; it is to step forth into the world by means of the form which it obtains therein, and prove its beauty by deeds….” A Key to Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1868)
Share