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,
Thy self 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, mak'st waste in niggarding:
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.
As the opening sonnet of the sequence, this one obviously has especial importance. It appears to look both before and after, into the future and the past. It sets the tone for the following group of so called 'procreation' sonnets 1-17. In addition, many of the compelling ideas of the later sonnets are first sketched out here - the youth's beauty, his vulnerability in the face of time's cruel processes, his potential for harm, to the world, and to himself, (perhaps also to his lovers), nature's beauty, which is dull in comparison to his, the threat of disease and cankers, the folly of being miserly, the need to see the world in a larger sense than through one's own restricted vision.
'Fair youth, be not churlish, be not self-centred, but go forth and fill the world with images of yourself, with heirs to replace you. Because of your beauty you owe the world a recompense, which now you are devouring as if you were an enemy to yourself. Take pity on the world, and do not, in utter selfish miserliness, allow yourself to become a perverted and self destructive object who eats up his own posterity'.
See also the further commentary on Sonnet 1
The 1609 Quarto Version
FRom faireſt creatures we deſire increaſe,
That thereby beauties Roſe might neuer die,
But as the riper ſhould by time deceaſe,
His tender heire might beare his memory:
But thou contracted to thine owne bright eyes,
Feed'ſt thy lights flame with ſelfe ſubſtantiall fewell,
Making a famine where aboundance lies,
Thy ſelfe thy foe,to thy ſweet ſelfe too cruell:
Thou that art now the worlds freſh ornament,
And only herauld to the gaudy ſpring,
Within thine owne bud burieſt thy content,
And tender chorle makſt waſt in niggarding:
Pitty the world,or elſe this glutton be,
To eate the worlds due,by the graue and thee.