Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spendUpon 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 abuseThe bounteous largess given thee to give?Profitless usurer, why dost thou useSo 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 usèd lives th’ executor to be
Shakespeare Sonnet 4, Summary & Analysis
In the first quatrain, the speaker calls his friend as “wasteful person” and tells him that why he is spending all his beauty on himself. Nature gives nothing, it only lends gifts temporarily to those who are generous to themselves.
In the second quatrain, the speaker refers his friend as a “beautiful miser” and asks him why he is abusing the bountiful gifts given to him by nature, which is meant to be shared with the world. He continues to refer his friend as “profitless usurer” which means an “investor without profit” and asks him why he is using all the treasure on himself that is meant to be shared with the world, yet unable to preserve his memory.
In the third quatrain, the speaker tells his friend that by doing all the dealings with himself alone, he is deceiving himself. The speaker continues to tell that how his friend will be able to give his accountability when nature calls him (when he is dead).
In the closing couplet, the speaker tells that his friend’s beauty will be buried with him after his death, which if used now, will preserve his memory and legacy.