Of Poverty

My dwelling is a low thatched house,1 my cell
Not2 big enough for pride’s great heart to dwell.
My rooms are not of3 stately cedars built,
No marble chimney-piece, nor4 wainscot gilt,
No statues cut, or carved, or5 cast in brass,                           5
Which, had they life, would Nature’s art surpass,
Nor6 painted pictures which Appelles drew;
There’s nought but lime and hair homely7 to view.
No agate table with a tortoise frame,
Nor stools stuffed with birds’ feathers, wild or tame,         10
But a stump of an old decayèd tree,
And stools that have8 three legs, and half lame be,9
Cut with a hatchet from some broken boughs,
And this is all which poverty allows.
Yet it is10 free from cares, no thieves doth11 fear;                15
The door stands12 open; all are13 welcome there.
Not like the rich, who guests do14 entertain
With cruelty, when birds and beasts15 are slain,
Who oil their bodies with their melted grease,
And by their flesh their body’s fat increase.                          20
We need no cook, nor skill to dress our meat,
For Nature dresses most of what we eat,
As roots and herbs, not such as art doth sow,
But which16 in fields do17 naturally grow.
Our wooden cups we from the spring do fill,                        25
Which is the wine-press of great Nature still.
Rich men, when18 they for to delight their taste
Suck out the juice from th’Earth,19 her strength do20 waste—
For, bearing oft, she’ll21 grow so lean and bare,22
That like a skeleton she will appear—23                                 30
And for24 their drink, the subtle spirits take25
Both from the26 barley and the full-ripe grape.27
Thus by their luxury their life they waste;
All28 their delight is still to please their taste.
This heats the mind with an ambitious fire;                          35
None happy is, but in a low desire.
Their longings do run out, and fix29 nowhere;
For what they have, or can have, nought they30 care,
But long for what they have not, this th’admire,31
Sick for that32 want; so restless is desire.                               40
When we from labors come, we33 quiet sleep;
No restless thoughts our sense awake doth keep.
All’s still and silent in our house and mind;
Our thoughts are cheerful, and our hearts are kind.
And though that life in motion still doth34 dwell,                 45
Yet rest in life a poor man loveth well.

  1. My dwelling is a low thatched house,] I live in low Thatcht House, Roomes small, 1653
  2. Not] ’S not 1664
  3. of] with 1653
  4. nor] no 1664, 1668
  5. or] nor 1653
  6. Nor] No 1664, 1668
  7. nought but lime and hair homely] nothing else but Lime and Hair 1664, 1668
  8. that have] with 1653
  9. and half lame be] which halfe lame they bee, 1653
  10. it is] is it 1664, 1668
  11. doth] do 1653
  12. stands] is 1664, 1668
  13. are] is 1653
  14. do] doth 1653
  15. when birds and beasts] to Birds, Beasts that 1653
  16. which] such 1653
  17. do] which 1653
  18. Rich men, when] When rich Men 1653
  19. th’Earth] Earth, 1653
  20. do] they 1664, 1668
  21. oft she’ll] often, shee will 1653
  22. lean and bare,] leane, 1653
  23. That like a skeleton she will appear—] A Sceleton, for Bones bare Earth is seen. 1653
  24. And for] Into 1664, 1668
  25. take] they 1664; they, 1668
  26. Both from the] From 1664, 1668
  27. grape.] Grape convey: 1664, 1668
  28. All] And 1664, 1668
  29. Their longings do run out, and fix] Their desires run, they fix themselves 1653
  30. For what they have, or can have, nought they] What they have, or can have, they do not 1653
  31. But long for what they have not, this th’admire,] What they injoy not, long for, and admire, 1653
  32. Sick for that] Oft Sick for 1664; Oft sick for 1668
  33. we] blest with a 1653
  34. though that life in motion still doth] Life, although’t in Motion still does 1664; Life, although’t in Motion still does 1668