Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distill’d:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-kill’d.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That’s for thyself to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do, if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-will’d, for thou art much too fair
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.
The theme of the previous sonnet, that summer’s beauty must be distilled and preserved, is here continued. The youth is encouraged to defeat the threatened ravages of winter by having children. Ten children would increase his happiness tenfold, since there would be ten faces to mirror his. Death therefore would be defeated, since he would live for ever through his posterity, even if he should himself die. He is much too beautiful to be merely food for worms, and must be encouraged not to be selfish, but to outwit death and death’s conquering hand.