Was Shakespeare A Conservationist?

The ideas of conservation and environmental considerations had not yet been dreamt of in Shakespeare’s time. Yet his Sonnet Number IV already, in those times recognizes that Nature’s gifts should be used wisely, not wasted but preserved to benefit future generations. Here is the sonnet:

 

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thy self 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 abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self 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, used, lives th’ executor to be.

 

Nature gives nothing but it lends

Why do you abuse the bounteous largesse that Nature gives?

Why do you use such great sums [of resources] and yet you cannot live?

And when you’re gone, what legacy will you leave?

 

These sentiments are highly relevant today but it seems amazing that Shakespeare would have put them forward them so clearly so long ago – centuries before Aldo Leopold or anyone else had even imagined them.

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