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The Wants of Man
a poem by John Quincy Adams

"Man wants but little here below, 
Nor wants that little long." 
'Tis not with me exactly so; 
But 'tis so in the song. 
My wants are many and, if told, 
Would muster many a score; 
And were each wish a mint of gold, 
I still should long for more. 

What first I want is daily bread -- 
And canvas-backs, -- and wine -- 
And all the realms of nature spread 
Before me, when I dine. 
Four courses scarcely can provide 
My appetite to quell; 
With four choice cooks from France beside, 
To dress my dinner well.

What next I want, at princely cost, 
Is elegant attire : 
Black sable furs for winter's frost, 
And silks for summer's fire, 
And Cashmere shawls, and Brussels lace 
My bosom's front to deck, -- 
And diamond rings my hands to grace, 
And rubies for my neck.

I want (who does not want?) a wife, -- 
Affectionate and fair; 
To solace all the woes of life, 
And all its joys to share. 
Of temper sweet, of yielding will, 
Of firm, yet placid mind, -- 
With all my faults to love me still 
With sentiment refined.

And as Time's car incessant runs, 
And Fortune fills my store, 
I want of daughters and of sons 
From eight to half a score. 
I want (alas! can mortal dare 
Such bliss on earth to crave?) 
That all the girls be chaste and fair, -- 
The boys all wise and brave.

I want a warm and faithful friend, 
To cheer the adverse hour, 
Who ne'er to flatter will descend, 
Nor bend the knee to power, -- 
A friend to chide me when I'm wrong, 
My inmost soul to see; 
And that my friendship prove as strong 
For him as his for me.

I want the seals of power and place, 
The ensigns of command; 
Charged by the People's unbought grace 
To rule my native land. 
Nor crown nor sceptre would I ask 
But from my country's will, 
By day, by night, to ply the task 
Her cup of bliss to fill.

I want the voice of honest praise 
To follow me behind, 
And to be thought in future days 
The friend of human-kind, 
That after ages, as they rise, 
Exulting may proclaim 
In choral union to the skies 
Their blessings on my name.

These are the Wants of mortal Man, -- 
I cannot want them long, 
For life itself is but a span, 
And earthly bliss -- a song. 
My last great Want -- absorbing all -- 
Is, when beneath the sod, 
And summoned to my final call, 
The Mercy of my God.


The Wants of Man - a poem by John Quincy Adams

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