Country Life:to His Brother, Mr Thomas Herrick

Robert Herrick

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Thrice, and above, blest, my soul's half, art thou,
In thy both last and better vow;
Could'st leave the city, for exchange, to see
The country's sweet simplicity;
And it to know and practise, with intent
To grow the sooner innocent;
By studying to know virtue, and to aim
More at her nature than her name;
The last is but the least; the first doth tell
Ways less to live, than to live well:--
And both are known to thee, who now canst live
Led by thy conscience, to give
Justice to soon-pleased nature, and to show
Wisdom and she together go,
And keep one centre; This with that conspires
To teach man to confine desires,
And know that riches have their proper stint
In the contented mind, not mint;
And canst instruct that those who have the itch
Of craving more, are never rich.
These things thou knows't to th' height, and dost prevent
That plague, because thou art content
With that Heaven gave thee with a wary hand,
(More blessed in thy brass than land)
To keep cheap Nature even and upright;
To cool, not cocker appetite.
Thus thou canst tersely live to satisfy
The belly chiefly, not the eye;
Keeping the barking stomach wisely quiet,
Less with a neat than needful diet.
But that which most makes sweet thy country life,
Is the fruition of a wife,
Whom, stars consenting with thy fate, thou hast
Got not so beautiful as chaste;
By whose warm side thou dost securely sleep,
While Love the sentinel doth keep,
With those deeds done by day, which ne'er affright
Thy silken slumbers in the night:
Nor has the darkness power to usher in
Fear to those sheets that know no sin.
The damask'd meadows and the pebbly streams
Sweeten and make soft your dreams:
The purling springs, groves, birds, and well weaved bowers,
With fields enamelled with flowers,
Present their shapes, while fantasy discloses
Millions of Lilies mix'd with Roses.
Then dream, ye hear the lamb by many a bleat
Woo'd to come suck the milky teat;
While Faunus in the vision comes, to keep
From rav'ning wolves the fleecy sheep:
With thousand such enchanting dreams, that meet
To make sleep not so sound as sweet;
Nor call these figures so thy rest endear,
As not to rise when Chanticlere
Warns the last watch;--but with the dawn dost rise
To work, but first to sacrifice;
Making thy peace with Heaven for some late fault,
With holy-meal and spirting salt;
Which done, thy painful thumb this sentence tells us,
'Jove for our labour all things sells us.'
Nor are thy daily and devout affairs
Attended with those desp'rate cares
Th' industrious merchant has, who for to find
Gold, runneth to the Western Ind,
And back again, tortured with fears, doth fly,
Untaught to suffer Poverty;--
But thou at home, blest with securest ease,
Sitt'st, and believ'st that there be seas,
And watery dangers; while thy whiter hap
But sees these things within thy map;
And viewing them with a more safe survey,
Mak'st easy fear unto thee say,
'A heart thrice walled with oak and brass, that man
Had, first durst plough the ocean.'
But thou at home, without or tide or gale,
Canst in thy map securely sail;
Seeing those painted countries, and so guess
By those fine shades, their substances;
And from thy compass taking small advice,
Buy'st travel at the lowest price.
Nor are thine ears so deaf but thou canst hear,
Far more with wonder than with fear,
Fame tell of states, of countries, courts, and kings,
And believe there be such things;
When of these truths thy happier knowledge lies
More in thine ears than in thine eyes.
And when thou hear'st by that too true report,
Vice rules the most, or all, at court,
Thy pious wishes are, though thou not there,
Virtue had, and moved her sphere.
But thou liv'st fearless; and thy face ne'er shows
Fortune when she comes, or goes;
But with thy equal thoughts, prepared dost stand
To take her by the either hand;
Nor car'st which comes the first, the foul or fair:--
A wise man ev'ry way lies square;
And like a surly oak with storms perplex'd
Grows still the stronger, strongly vex'd.
Be so, bold Spirit; stand centre-like, unmoved;
And be not only thought, but proved
To be what I report thee, and inure
Thyself, if want comes, to endure;
And so thou dost; for thy desires are
Confined to live with private Lar:
Nor curious whether appetite be fed
Or with the first, or second bread.
Who keep'st no proud mouth for delicious cates;
Hunger makes coarse meats, delicates.
Canst, and unurged, forsake that larded fare,
Which art, not nature, makes so rare;
To taste boil'd nettles, coleworts, beets, and eat
These, and sour herbs, as dainty meat:--
While soft opinion makes thy Genius say,
'Content makes all ambrosia;'
Nor is it that thou keep'st this stricter size
So much for want, as exercise;
To numb the sense of dearth, which, should sin haste it,
Thou might'st but only see't, not taste it;
Yet can thy humble roof maintain a quire
Of singing crickets by thy fire;
And the brisk mouse may feast herself with crumbs,
Till that the green-eyed kitling comes;
Then to her cabin, blest she can escape
The sudden danger of a rape.
--And thus thy little well-kept stock doth prove,
Wealth cannot make a life, but love.
Nor art thou so close-handed, but canst spend,
(Counsel concurring with the end),
As well as spare; still conning o'er this theme,
To shun the first and last extreme;
Ordaining that thy small stock find no breach,
Or to exceed thy tether's reach;
But to live round, and close, and wisely true
To thine own self, and known to few.
Thus let thy rural sanctuary be
Elysium to thy wife and thee;
There to disport your selves with golden measure;
For seldom use commends the pleasure.
Live, and live blest; thrice happy pair; let breath,
But lost to one, be th' other's death:
And as there is one love, one faith, one troth,
Be so one death, one grave to both;
Till when, in such assurance live, ye may
Nor fear, or wish your dying day.

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