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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Where to Find True Joy
By Alfred the Great (849–899)
 
From ‘Boethius’

From Works of Alfred the Great, Jubilee Edition (Oxford and Cambridge, 1852)

OH! it is a fault of weight,
  Let him think it out who will,
And a danger passing great
  Which can thus allure to ill
    Careworn men from the rightway,        5
    Swiftly ever led astray.
 
Will ye seek within the wood
  Red gold on the green trees tall?
None, I wot, is wise that could,
  For it grows not there at all:        10
    Neither in wine-gardens green
    Seek they gems of glittering sheen.
 
Would ye on some hill-top set,
  When ye list to catch a trout,
Or a carp, your fishing-net?        15
  Men, methinks, have long found out
    That it would be foolish fare,
    For they know they are not there.
 
In the salt sea can ye find,
  When ye list to start an hunt,        20
With your hounds, the hart or hind?
  It will sooner be your wont
    In the woods to look, I wot,
    Than in seas where they are not.
 
Is it wonderful to know        25
  That for crystals red or white
One must to the sea-beach go,
  Or for other colors bright,
    Seeking by the river’s side
    Or the shore at ebb of tide?        30
 
Likewise, men are well aware
  Where to look for river-fish;
And all other worldly ware
  Where to seek them when they wish;
    Wisely careful men will know        35
    Year by year to find them so.
 
But of all things ’tis most sad
  That they foolish are so blind,
So besotted and so mad,
  That they cannot surely find        40
    Where the ever-good is nigh
    And true pleasures hidden lie.
 
Therefore, never is their strife
  After those true joys to spur;
In this lean and little life        45
  They, half-witted, deeply err
    Seeking here their bliss to gain,
    That is God Himself in vain.
 
Ah! I know not in my thought
  How enough to blame their sin,        50
None so clearly as I ought
  Can I show their fault within;
    For, more bad and vain are they
    And more sad than I can say.
 
All their hope is to acquire        55
  Worship goods and worldly weal;
When they have their mind’s desire,
  Then such witless Joy they feel,
    That in folly they believe
    Those True Joys they then receive.        60
 
 
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