The Means to Attain a Happy Life

Henry Howard Earl of Surrey at age 29, 1546
Henry Howard Earl of Surrey at age 29, 1546

I think this is perhaps my favourite poem. It reminds me of what is important in life and it’s interesting to note that, excluding a few dated ideas such as “The faithful wife, without debate” which may be considered a chauvinistic view today, what mattered to people in the 1500s is largely the same as what matters to people now. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

The Means to Attain a Happy Life
By Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. 1516–47

MARTIAL, the things that do attain

The happy life, be these, I find :
The riches left, not got with pain ;
The fruitful ground, the quiet mind :

The equal friend, no grudge, no strife ;
No charge of rule, nor governance ;
Without disease, the healthful life ;
The household of continuance :

The mean diet, no delicate fare ;
Wisdom joined with simplicity ;
The night discharged of all care,
Where wine the wit may not oppress :

The faithful wife, without debate ;
Such sleeps as may beguile the night.
Contented with thine own estate ;
Ne wish for death, nor fear his might.

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