Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I think Lao Tzu said something like this: "Those who are content with what they have will always have enough."  The corollary then would be that those who are not content with what they have will never have enough. Following are two who say that their needs are minimal and neither extravagant nor excessive.  They will be content with a few wants.


Happy the man, whose wish and care  
A few paternal aces bound,
Centent to breathe his native air
           In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
            In winter, fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind;
          Quiet by day.

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixed, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
            With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
             Tell where I lie.

-- Alexander Pope -- 

He wishes for solitude and the simple life:  a small farm perhaps with dairy cows, no doubt, that he will milk.  His fields will supply his bread, and, of course, he will do what is necessary to grow the wheat, harvest it, grind it for flour, and then bake it for bread while he is tending his herd of cows.  And, in addition to this he will personally watch over his flock of sheep, while doing all the rest, sheer them, prepare the wool, and then make up his "attire."

I think his solitude and simple life will require some assistance. 

    "Man wants but little here below"
Little I ask;  my wants are few;
    I only wish a hut of stone,
(A very plain brownstone will do,)
             That I may call my own;--
And close at hand is such a one,
In yonder street that fronts the sun.

Plain food is quite enough for me;
     Three courses are as good as ten;--
If Nature can subsist on three,
           Thank Heaven for three. Amen!
I always thought cold victual nice;--
My choice would be vanilla ice.

I care not much for gold or land;--
   Give me a mortgage here and there,--
Some good bank-stock,--some note of hand,
            Or trifling railroad share;--
I only ask that Fortune send
A little more than I shall spend.

Honors are silly toys, I know,
     And titles are but empty names;--
I could, perhaps, be Plenipo,--
          But only near St. James;--
I'm very sure I should not care
To fill our Gubernator's chair.

Jewels are baubles; 'tis a sin
    To care for such unfruitful things;--
One good-sized diamond in a pin, --
           Some, not so large, in rings,--
A ruby, and a  pearl, or so,
Will do for me;--I laugh at show.

My dame should dress in cheap attire;
   (Good, heavy silks are never dear;)--
I own perhaps I might desire
              Some shawls of cashmere,--
Some marrowy crapes of China silk,
Like wrinkled skins on scalded milk.

I would not have the horse I drive
    So fast that folks must stop and stare;
An easy gait--two, forty-five--
             Suits me, I do not care;--
Perhaps, for just a single spurt,
Some seconds less would do no hurt.

Of pictures, I should like to own
     Titians and Raphaels three or four,--
I love so much that style and tone,--
            One Turner, and no more,--
(A landscape,--foregound golden dirt,
The sunshine painted with a squirt.)

Of books but few,--some fifty score
    For daily use, and bound for wear;
The rest upon an upper floor;--
            Some little luxury there
Of red morocco's gilded gleam,
And vellum rich as country cream.

Busts, cameos, gems, --such things as these,
    Which others often show for pride,
I value for their power to please,
            And selfish churls deride;--
One Stradivarius, I confess,
Two Meerschaums, I would fain possess.

Wealth's wasteful tricks I will not learn,
     Nor ape the glittering upstart fool;--
Shall not carved tables serve my turn,
            But all must be of buhl?
Give grasping pomp its double share,--
I ask but one recumbent chair.

Thus humble let me live and die,
    Nor long for Midas' golden touch,
If Heaven more generous gifts deny,
            I shall not miss them much,--
Too grateful for the blessing lent
Of simple tastes and mind content!

-- Oliver Wendell Holmes --

Which, if any, of the two do you think will be content with what he has?


  1. Holmes had a more realistic view of himself and fellow man, I think. Though the idealist in Pope's view would probably wind up happiest. If I HAD to say. :)

  2. Blogspot is giving me trouble when I try to post just by selecting Name as the option. This is a test .


  3. Yvette,

    I would agree with you. Pope's character's view is not quite as simple as he thinks it is, but he probably would be more likely than Holmes'.

    Holmes' is a classic example that one is never satisfied if one's desires focus on material wants. Our economy is based on the premise that many, if not most, people will never stop buying to achieve happiness.

  4. Cheryl,

    Your message made it. Blogspot does have its days, but fortunately it's not as bad as yahoo.