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 thyself alone,
Thou of thyself 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 tomb’d with thee,
Which, used, lives th’ executor to be.
Sonnet 4: Translation to modern English
Wasteful youth, why do you squander on yourself the riches that you should leave to the world? Nature gives nothing but only makes a loan and, being generous, she lends only to those who are open hearted. Then, beautiful miser, why do you abuse the generous inheritance given to you to leave to someone else? Unsuccessful money-lender, why do you spend such great sums when you can’t live forever, by thinking of yourself only? You are only cheating yourself, so, when nature calls you away what reasonable account will you be able to give of yourself? Your unused seed will have to be buried with you , which, if used, would live as the administrator of your beauty.
See other Shakespeare sonnets in modern English >>