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Meaning of “Burn The Candle At Both Ends” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

Burn The Candle At Both Ends

“Apt to light their candle at both ends; that is to say, they are apt to consume too much and work too little.”—HANWAY, Travels, it. i, 3.

The meaning of this phrase is to use one’s resources unprofitably in two directions at once.

Normally people burn candles at one end only. To burn a candle at both ends at the same time would be folly. “You can’t eat your cake and have it.” “No man can serve two masters.” These phrases sum up the same idea. Each expresses, in almost identical measure, the idea of a war of antitheses. Energy which is spent profitably we call “economy,” but energy when it is spent unprofitably is “waste.” A student may work through the hours when others are sleeping; and a profligate may equally spend his nights in riotous living. Both are, at least metaphorically, burning candles. Unless each is able to recuperate his expenditure of energy, there is, albeit in differing manner, a waste of life; the candle is being burned.at both ends. The waste of life, however, is the principal thing; in the one case, the waste is for a noble purpose, namely, to gain knowledge, and the net result may be a compensating moral gain; while, in the other case, there is no such balancing advantage; therefore, the waste is total and absolute.

“Nearly all labour may he shortly divided into positive and negative labour: positive, that which produces life; negative, that which produces death . . . and wise consumption is a far more difficult art than wise production. Twenty people can gain money for one who can use it; and the vital question, for individual and for nation, is, never `how much do they make?’ but ‘to what purpose do they spend?’ “– RUSKIN: Unto This Last (Essay IV, “Ad Valorem”).

When a nation expends its energy in needless war and warlike preparation, in luxurious embellishments in its civic activities, while its citizens go under clothed, under-nourished, and under educated, there is a double waste of vital resources: the candle is being burned at both ends.


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