Friday, November 09, 2012


An Account of My Life

John Rawlet (1642–1686), "An Account of My Life in the North," in his Poetick Miscellanies (London: Printed for Samuel Tidmarsh, 1687), pp. 90-93:
            Bene qui latuit bene vixit.

Since you, dear friend, wonder how here I live,
This homely Verse a brief account shall give;
I live, if not in pleasure, yet at ease,
Not in loud laughters, but in silent peace;
And tho I rarely meet with merriment,
I more a stranger am to discontent:
Here's no excess, nor are things needful scant;
I seldom feast, but yet I never want.
No dainties here to luxury invite,
Our food serves well the sober appetite,
Which need not be with poignant Sawces drest,
Our healthful Hunger of all Sawce is best.
Doctors we have none, nor much need them here;
The Doctors we more than Diseases fear:
For Country-folks think they sell death too dear.
Altho I lie not on a rich Down-bed,
Yet do sweet sleeps refresh my weary head.
No Walks or Gardens here, but yet the Field
And fragrant Meadows equal pleasures yield;
No Lutes or Viols entertain my ear,
But more melodious Birds I daily hear.
Riches I have not, nor do riches need,
Whilst here at easy rates we clothe and feed.
I have no Servants whom I may command,
Nor have I work that needs a Servants hand,
I am not high enough to envied be,
Nor do I one whom I should envy, see;
Here's no applause to make me proud or vain,
Nor do I meet with censures or disdain:
My people, if they are not wise and great,
Are not untractable through self-conceit;
No factious, giddy heads that make a Schism
For fear of Popery or Arminianism:
No sawcy, arrogant controllers, such
That cry, This is too little, this too much:
No such vile wretches who their Preacher hate
'Cause he reproves sin at too smart a rate:
Wherefore I envy not flocks of more wealth,
Which give more trouble whilst they have less health.
If of Companions I have no great store,
With my own mind I may converse the more;
And from my old Friends tho I am confin'd,
Letters may keep us in each others mind:
Or if, whilst buried here, I lose their love,
I'l fix my mind on surer things above.
But need I Friends, need I Companions crave,
Whilst I as many Friends as Neighbours have?
Or if I want the joy of bosom Friends,
I 'scape the pain which still that joy attends:
For whilst they live our hearts oft ake with fear;
But break and bleed when of their death we hear.
And if I want the comfort of a Wife,
I have the pleasures of a single life;
If I no Gallants here, nor Beauties see,
From slavish Love and Courtship I am free:
What fine things else you in the South can name,
Our North can shew as good, if not the same:
Ev'n as in Winter you have shorter Nights,
But Summer us with longer Days requites.
Thus if my want of joy makes life less sweet,
Death then will seem less bitter when we meet.
But what is this Worlds Joy? 'Tis Innocence,
And Virtue that do truest joys dispence:
If Innocence and Virtue with me dwell,
They'l make a Paradice of an Hermits Cell.
The motto (Bene qui latuit bene vixit) comes from Ovid, Tristia 3.4.25, and means "He who has succeeded in staying hidden has lived well." In line 11, "poignant" sauces are those that are "Sharp, pungent, piquant to the taste or smell" (Oxford English Dictionary).

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