Reading of Sonnet 4
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The images in the YouTube video are from an original 1609 edition of Shake-speares Sonnets held by the British Library. It is one of only thirteen copies in existence. Images courtesy of the Octavo Corporation.
Modernized Spelling and Punctuation
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 tombed with thee,
Which, used, lives th’ executor to be.
Simplified Modern English Translation
What a waste of beauty! Why do you spend
all of your energy on yourself instead of concentrating on your legacy?
Nature has given you your beauty as a loan
and meant you to use this treasure wisely and generously.
Then, you beautiful cheapskate, why do you keep to yourself
all this wealth that was meant to be spent on reproduction?
Your self-involvement yields no profit! Why do you spend so much
energy on yourself, which yields no dividend for posterity?
By loving only yourself,
you are only deceiving yourself.
Then, when nature calls you to your death,
what excuse can you give for your wastefulness?
Your unspent beauty will die with you,
which, if it were spent profitably, would live on in your children.
Text from Original 1609 Quarto
Transcription courtesy of University of Virginia Library:
Vnthrifty louelinesse why dost thou spend,
Vpon thy selfe thy beauties legacy?
Natures bequest giues nothing but doth lend,
And being franck she lends to those are free:
Then beautious nigard why doost thou abuse,
The bountious largesse giuen thee to giue?
Profitles vserer why doost thou vse
So great a summe of summes yet can’st not liue?
For hauing traffike with thy selfe alone,
Thou of thy selfe thy sweet selfe dost deceaue,
Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable Audit can’st thou leaue?
Thy vnus’d beauty must be tomb’d with thee,
Which vsed liues th’executor to be.