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Contentment
a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Contentment
"Man wants but little here below"

Little I ask; my wants are few;
I only wish a hut of stone,
(A very plain brown stone 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 would, 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; 't is 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 true 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 their style and tone,
One Turner, and no more,
(A landscape, - foreground 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!


Contentment - a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes

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