Martial’s Guide to Happiness

Martial, Epigrams 10.47:

These are the things, my dearest Martial, which make life happier: possessions not gotten from labor, but left to you; a not ungrateful field, a fireplace always warm; never any strife, rarely putting on the toga, a quiet mind; inborn strength, a healthy body; wise simplicity and equal friends; easy dining, and a simple table; sober nights, but still free of cares; a bed that isn’t sad, but still with its share of modesty; sleep to make the shadows short; to wish to be what you are, and to desire nothing else; not to fear your final day, nor yet to wish for it.

Here is the same epigram translated more poetically by Henry Howard:

My friend, the things that do attain
The happy life be these, I find:
The riches left, not got with pain,
The fruitful ground; the quiet mind;
The equal friend; no grudge, no strife;
No charge of rule nor governance;
Without disease the healthy life;
The household of continuance;
The mean diet, no dainty fare;
True wisdom joined with simpleness;
The night discharged of all care,
Where wine the wit may not oppress;
The faithful wife, without debate;
Such sleeps as may beguile the night:
Content thyself with thine estate,
Neither wish death, nor fear his might.
Henry Howard Earl of Surrey 1546.jpg

Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
Iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
Res non parta labore, sed relicta;
Non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
Lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;                            5
Vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
Prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
Convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis;
Non tristis torus, et tamen pudicus;                            10
Somnus, qui faciat breves tenebras:
Quod sis, esse velis nihilque malis;
Summum nec metuas diem nec optes.

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