Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Contentment
By 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; ’tis 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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