'Contentment' by Oliver Wendell Holmes
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"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 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 aud 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!
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Beauty of Contentment: An Analysis of Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Contentment"
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving." This statement perfectly encapsulates the theme of his poem "Contentment," where he explores the idea that happiness is not found in material possessions, but in the simple pleasures of life. In this essay, we will delve deeper into the poem's meaning by analyzing its structure, symbolism, and literary devices.
Structure and Form
"Contentment" is a six-stanza poem, with each stanza consisting of four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter. This regularity of form contributes to the poem's overall message of finding peace and stability in the midst of life's chaos. The consistent rhythm of the poem creates a sense of regularity and stability, much like the contentment the speaker seeks. Additionally, the poem's structure is enhanced by the use of enjambment, where lines flow into one another, creating a continuous flow of thought. This technique adds to the poem's sense of fluidity and tranquility.
Throughout the poem, Holmes uses symbolism to convey the idea that contentment is found in the simplest things in life. The speaker describes the "sleek-coated, well-fed" horse that "neighs at the gate" as an example of how we can find contentment in the beauty of nature. The horse represents the unadulterated, natural world, and by admiring its beauty, the speaker finds contentment. Similarly, the "blaze of the hearth" and the "lamp's unsteady gleam" represent the comfort of home, and how we can find contentment in the warmth and safety of our own abode. The speaker also mentions "the quiet breathing of a child" as an example of how we can find contentment in the simple pleasures of life. This image represents the purity and innocence of childhood, which can bring us great joy and contentment.
Holmes employs a number of literary devices to enhance the poem's meaning and emotional impact. One such device is imagery, where he uses vivid descriptions to create a sensory experience for the reader. For example, the lines "The dewy freshness of the early day, / The spicy bloom which evening brings, / The thousand joys that pass away, / Are made of all the little things" evoke a sense of freshness, spiciness, and joy, creating a vivid image in the reader's mind.
Another literary device used in the poem is repetition, where the phrase "little things" is repeated throughout the poem. This repetition emphasizes the importance of finding contentment in the small, everyday moments of life, rather than focusing on material possessions or grand achievements. The repetition also creates a sense of familiarity and comfort, reinforcing the idea that contentment is found in the familiar and the routine.
Finally, the poem uses personification to give life to inanimate objects, such as the "sleek-coated, well-fed" horse that "neighs at the gate" and the "rustling of the crispéd leaves." This technique adds a sense of whimsy and imagination to the poem, creating a world where even the inanimate can bring us joy and contentment.
In conclusion, Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Contentment" is a beautiful ode to the simple pleasures of life. Through its structure, symbolism, and literary devices, the poem emphasizes the importance of finding contentment in the small, everyday moments of life, rather than in material possessions or grand achievements. The poem's regularity of form, use of symbolism, vivid imagery, repetition, and personification all work together to create a sense of tranquility and comfort that perfectly captures the essence of contentment. As the speaker says, "Contentment gives a crown, / Where fortune has denied it." Indeed, the beauty of contentment is its ability to transform even the most mundane moments into something truly precious and meaningful.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Contentment is a classic poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, an American physician, poet, and essayist. The poem is a beautiful reflection on the importance of finding contentment in life, despite the challenges and struggles that we may face. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in the poem, and how they contribute to its overall meaning and impact.
The poem begins with the speaker acknowledging the many things that he does not have in life, such as wealth, fame, and power. He describes these things as "the prizes of life" that many people strive for, but that he has not been able to attain. However, despite this, the speaker declares that he is still content with his life, and that he has found happiness in the simple pleasures that life has to offer.
The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker establishes the idea that contentment is not dependent on external factors such as wealth or power, but rather on one's own attitude and perspective. This theme is further developed in the second stanza, where the speaker describes the beauty of nature and the joy that it brings him. He finds contentment in the simple act of watching the clouds go by, and in the peacefulness of the natural world.
The third stanza shifts the focus to the speaker's relationships with others, and how they contribute to his contentment. He describes the love and companionship of his family and friends, and how they bring him happiness and fulfillment. This stanza emphasizes the importance of human connection and relationships in finding contentment in life.
The fourth and final stanza brings the poem to a close, as the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. He acknowledges that life is short, and that we must make the most of the time that we have. However, he also emphasizes that finding contentment in life is possible, and that it is ultimately what gives life meaning and purpose.
The structure of the poem is relatively simple, with four stanzas of equal length and a consistent rhyme scheme (ABCB). This simplicity reflects the poem's message that contentment can be found in the simple things in life, and that it does not require elaborate or complex structures.
One of the most striking literary devices used in the poem is the contrast between the things that the speaker does not have (wealth, fame, power) and the things that he finds contentment in (nature, relationships). This contrast emphasizes the idea that contentment is not dependent on external factors, but rather on one's own perspective and attitude.
Another literary device used in the poem is imagery, particularly in the second stanza where the speaker describes the beauty of nature. The imagery of the clouds and the sky creates a sense of peace and tranquility, and emphasizes the idea that contentment can be found in the simple pleasures of life.
The poem also uses repetition, particularly in the first and last stanzas where the phrase "I am content" is repeated. This repetition emphasizes the central message of the poem, and reinforces the idea that contentment is possible even in the face of adversity.
In conclusion, Contentment is a beautiful and inspiring poem that encourages us to find happiness and fulfillment in the simple things in life. Through its themes, structure, and literary devices, the poem emphasizes the importance of perspective, relationships, and human connection in finding contentment. It reminds us that life is short, and that we must make the most of the time that we have by finding joy and contentment in the present moment.
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