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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,

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 !

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,

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;

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 bawbles;  't is a sin

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.

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,

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; ---

Perhaps, for such 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, ---

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;

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,

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.

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, ---

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, ---

Too grateful for the blessing lent

Of simple tastes and mind content !


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