Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Aug 29, 1809 - Oct 7, 1894



by Oliver Wendell Holmes

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 victuals 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 baubles; '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 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,
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!


Illustrated poems of Oliver Wendell Holmes
Copyright 1885
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin And Company
New York: 11 East Seventeenth Street

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