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A Country-life: To His Brother, Mr. Tho. Herrick

by Robert Herrick, 1648

Thrice, and above, bless’d, 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 can’st 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 can’st instruct that those who have the itch
  Of craving more are never rich.
These things thou know’st to th’ height, and dost prevent
  That plague; because thou art content
With that heav’n 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;
But still thy wife, by chaste intentions led,
  Gives thee each night a maidenhead.
The damask’d meadows and the pebbly streams
  Sweeten and make soft your dreams:
The purling springs, groves, birds, and well-weav’d 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 can 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 heav’n, 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 Inde,
And back again, tortured with fears, doth fly,
  Untaught to suffer poverty.
But thou at home, bless’d 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 wall’d with oak and brass that man

  Had, first durst plough the ocean“.
But thou at home, without or tide or gale,
  Can’st 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 mov’d 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, unmov’d;
  And be not only thought, but prov’d
To be what I report thee; and inure
  Thyself, if want comes to endure:
And so thou dost, for thy desires are
  Confin’d to live with private lar:
Not 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 unurg’d, forsake that larded fare,
  Which art, not nature, makes so rare,
To taste boil’d nettles, colworts, 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 choir
  Of singing crickets by the 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 yourselves with golden measure:
  For seldom use commends the pleasure.
Live, and live blest, thrice happy pair; let breath,
  But lost to one, be the 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.

Published in Hesperides

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