Late one night, I shared some vodka tonics with a friend.

We talked about matters of great importance; life, meaning, and happiness — as one might do while getting moderately intoxicated after a hard day’s work in the propaganda industry. The next day, my friend sent me an email:

“Our conversation yesterday reminded me of this poem of Henry Howard,” he wrote. “I think you might like it.”

The Things that Do Attain

What I read turned out to become one of my favourite poems:

“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.”

The poem was partially used in this episode of The Tudors (and read very well):

Happiness by way of the quiet mind, as it stands, might just be the most ambitious of quests; so elusive and difficult to attain. Still, a such a glorious path to wander for those of us who subscribe to a stoic philosophy of life!

“The Happy Life” by Henry Howard is stoic philosophy distilled into a single poem.

Photo by Marko Blažević on Unsplash.

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