From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory;
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel. (lines 1-8)
We want the beautiful people to have children, so that their beauty will never die-this reminds me of Charles Darwin's natural selection, although Darwin didn't publish his thesis until 1859, which is about 250 years after Shakespeare's Sonnets were published. There is a sense of urgency for this beautiful man to have children, because everyone ages and dies, and all there is left of one's life is the memory and the physical characteristics that your children carry on with them. The speaker tells the beautiful man that he is selfish and too self-involved. He is betrothed to himself; he doesn't think that his looks will fade, so he is consumed with living in the now, instead of planning for the future. He robs the world of beauty when he can so easily shower the world in his beauty; by not having kids he is creating a famine of beauty when he could very easily create an abundance of beauty by having heirs. He is his own foe, and he is only hurting himself by refusing to procreate.
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding. (9-12)
You are the world's most beautiful ornament, and the principal foreshadower of the gaudy (Middle English definition- a yellowish green color or pigment) spring. Within your own "bud" (yourself) you hide away your content (what you contain- potential for fatherhood; and what would content you- marriage and fatherhood), and waste your beauty with all that "niggarding" (hoarding). "Bud" is a pun; the speaker is equating the human body with the bud of a flower. "Tender churl" is an oxymoron, it means gentle boor.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee. (13-4)
The speaker tells the beautiful man to feel sorry for the world and procreate or else this gluttony (one of the seven deadly sins- greed) will be to eat the world's due by willfully dying without issue.
The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Sixteenth Century and the Early Seventeenth Century.
Published by Sophia Brookshire
I love books! I love the smell of them and the words contained within. I received a Bachelor s degree in English and an Associates degree in Comparative Literature from UC Santa Barbara. I love to read other... View profile
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