Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
The Means to Attain Happy Life
By Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517–1547)
 
MARTIAL, 1 the things that do attain
  The happy life be these, I find:—
The riches left, 2 not got with pain;
  The fruitful ground, the quiet mind;
 
The equal friend; no grudge, no strife;        5
  No charge of rule, nor governance;
Without disease, the healthful life;
  The household of continuance; 3
 
The mean diet, no delicate fare;
  True wisdom join’d with simpleness;        10
The night dischargèd of all care,
  Where wine the wit may not oppress.
 
The faithful wife, without debate;
  Such sleeps as may beguile the night:
Contented with thine own estate        15
  Ne wish for death, ne fear his might.
 
Note 1. This poem is a translation from one of Martial’s Epigrams. The poem has not only the merit of being one of the earliest translations in our language from any approved classic, but of being, perhaps, the best translation that has appeared. Surrey, having selected a poem of a grave and moral nature, from an author who abounds with many of a lighter cast, such as would be considered more attractive to the generality of youthful readers, proves him to have had an elevated mind, and a high sense of what is due to virtue. The Epigram from Martial is as follows:

  
Ad Seipsum
  
Vitam quæ faciunt beatiorem,
Jucundissime Martialis, hæc sunt.
Res non parta labore, sed relicta,
Non ingratus ager, focus perennis,
Lis nunquam, toga rara, mens quieta,
Vires ingenuæ, 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.
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Note 2. The riches left: “All other copies,” observes Nott, “read the richesse left. I believe no more was intended than the plural nominative, riches. It will be proper to observe, however, that richesse is frequently used as a singular substantive for wealth personified, as in the Romaunt of the Rose, line 1071; or a state of wealth, answering to la richesse in French; in which sense it seems to have been used by our best early writers.” Cf. Spenser’s Faery Queene, Bk. II. Can. vii. St. 24:
  Betwixt them both there was but little stride
That did the House of Richesse from hell-mouth divide.
Note 3. The Household of continuance: It is accepted that Surrey meant “An household, or family that is not of recent establishment, and promises to be of duration.” [back]
 
 
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