The Things That Cause a Quiet Life

My friend, the things that do attain the happy life be these, I find...

The following is a poem by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. He was born in England right around the time that the Reformation was beginning in Germany, and he was executed by Henry VIII when he was about 30 years old (for reasons unrelated to the Reformation). The poem is actually a translation of an epigram by Martial, who was a poet in Spain in the 1st-2nd century AD and who wrote in Latin. This particular one of Martial’s Epigrams (X.47) has been translated by at least eight other men into English verse. What is it about this set of lines from the classical world that continues to resonate with mankind? Give it a read and see for yourself:

My friend, 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 healthy life;
The household of continuance;

The mean diet, no dainty fare;
True wisdom joined with simpleness;
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:
Content thyself with thine estate,
Neither wish death, nor fear his might.

In Christ,
Pastor Richard

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