Wednesday, July 29, 2009


A True Receipt of Happiness

Martial 10.47, tr. Abraham Cowley:
Since, dearest Friend, 'tis your desire to see
A true Receipt of Happiness from Me;
These are the chief Ingredients, if not all;
Take an Estate neither too great nor small,
Which Quantum Sufficit the Doctors call;
Let this Estate from Parents care descend;
The getting it too much of Life does spend.
Take such a Ground, whose gratitude may be
A fair Encouragement for Industry.
Let constant Fires the Winters fury tame;
And let thy Kitchens be a Vestal Flame.
Thee to the Town let never Suit at Law;
And rarely, very rarely Business draw.
Thy active Mind in equal Temper keep,
In undisturbed Peace, yet not in sleep.
Let Exercise a vigorous Health maintain,
Without which all the Composition's vain.
In the same weight Prudence and Innocence take,
And of each does the just mixture make.
But a few Friendships wear, and let them be
By Nature and by Fortune fit for thee.
In stead of Art and Luxury in food,
Let Mirth and Freedome make thy Table good.
If any cares into thy Day-time creep,
At night, without Wines Opium, let them sleep.
Let rest, which Nature does to Darkness wed,
And not Lust, recommend to thee thy Bed,
Be satisfi'd, and pleas'd with what thou art;
Act chearfully and well th' allotted part,
Enjoy the present Hour, be thankful for the Past,
And neither fear, nor wish th' approaches of the last.
The same, tr. Thomas Randolph:
These are things that being possest
Will make a life that's truly blest:
Estate bequeath'd, not got with toyle;
A good hot fire, a gratefull soyle.
No strife, warm clothes, a quiet soule,
A strength intire, a body whole.
Prudent simplicity, equall freinds,
A diet that no Art commends.
A night not drunke, and yet secure;
A bed not sad, yet chast and pure.
Long sleepes to make the nights but short,
A will be to but what thou art.
Naught rather choose; contented lye,
And neither feare, nor wish to dye.
The Latin original:
Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
res non parta labore sed relicta;
non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;
vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
nox non ebria sed soluta curis;
non tristis torus et tamen pudicus;
somnus qui faciat breves tenebras:
quod sis esse velis nihilque malis;
summum nec metuas diem nec optes.
Other translations of the same poem by:

Update: There is a mistake in the quotation from Cowley. See The Happy Man for a correction.

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