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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.
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, makest waste in niggarding.
    Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
    To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.


We desire that all created things may grow more plentiful,
So that nature's beauty may not die out,
But as an old man dies at the hand of time,
He leaves an heir to carry on his memory:
But you, interested only in your own beauty,
Feed the radiant light of life with self-regarding fuel,
Making a void of beauty by so obsessing over your own looks,
With this behavior you are being cruel to yourself.
You are now the newest ornament in the world, young and beautiful
And the chief messenger of spring,
But you are burying the gifts you have been given within yourself
And, dear one, because you deny others your beauty, you are actually wasting it.
   Take pity on the world, or else be regarded as a selfish glutton,
   By the laws of God and nature you must create a child, so that the grave does not devour the memory of your loveliness.

Please click here for explanatory notes.

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 1. Ed. Amanda Mabillard. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2009. < >.

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Did You Know? ... "Among the minor questions relating to the Sonnets which have been the subject of no little controversy the only one that seems to claim notice here is the identity of the "rival poet" of Sonnets 79-86. Spenser, Marlowe, Drayton, Nash, Daniel, and others have been suggested by the critics, and Mr. Lee adds Barnabe Barnes, "a poetic panegyrist of Southampton and a prolific sonneteer, who was deemed by contemporary critics certain to prove a great poet." On the whole, Chapman, whom Professor Minto was the first to suggest, and whom Dowden, Furnivall, and many others have endorsed, is most likely to have been the poet whom Shakespeare had in mind." W. J. Rolfe. Read on....


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