In this first of two linked sonnets, the poet asks why the beautiful young man should live in a society so corrupt, since his very presence gives it legitimacy. He concludes that Nature is keeping the young man alive as a reminder of the world as it used to be.
Ah, wherefore with infection should he live, And with his presence grace impiety, That sin by him advantage should achieve 4And lace itself with his society? Why should false painting imitate his cheek And steal dead seeing of his living hue? Why should poor beauty indirectly seek 8Roses of shadow, since his rose is true? Why should he live, now Nature bankrout is, Beggared of blood to blush through lively veins, For she hath no exchequer now but his, 12And, proud of many, lives upon his gains? O, him she stores, to show what wealth she had In days long since, before these last so bad.