Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
The Character of a Happy Life
By Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639)
HOW 1 happy is he born and taught
That severeth not another’s will;
Whose armour is his honest thought,
And simple truth his utmost skill!
Whose passions not his masters are;        5
Whose soul is still prepared for death,
Untied unto the world by care
Of public fame or private breath;
Who envies none that chance doth raise,
Nor vice; who never understood        10
How deepest wounds are given by praise;
Nor rules of state, but rules of good;
Who hath his life from rumours freed;
Whose conscience is his strong retreat;
Whose state can neither flatterers feed,        15
Nor ruin make oppressors great;
Who God doth late and early pray
More of His grace than gifts to lend;
And entertains the harmless day
With a religious book or friend;        20
—This man is freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise or fear to fall:
Lord of himself, though not of lands,
And having nothing, yet hath all.
Note 1. From the Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, and reprinted by Percy. Ben Jonson, who admired the poem very much, had the lines by heart, and quoted them to Drummond as Wotton’s. They are said to be almost identical with a German poem of the same age. Wotton, it is believed, may have seen the original in one of his many embassies to Germany on behalf of Elizabeth of Bohemia. [back]

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