Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
Poems of Sentiment: VI. Labor and Rest
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)
“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,        5
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!        10
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,        15
    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;        20
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        25
  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.        30
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,        35
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;—        40
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—        45
    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;        50
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,        55
  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.        60
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,—        65
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,        70
Too grateful for the blessing lent
Of simple tastes and mind content!

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