Monday, July 2, 2007

Are we happy yet?

Lou had a very interesting post on happiness recently, which sent me hunting for this poem by William Cowper. The poem will be especially resonant, I think, if you read Lou's post first, and keep in mind that Cowper spent much of his life in an agonizing depression, and attempted suicide many times. Cowper was a fervent Christian, so the poem is written in that idiom, but if you "translate" it into the secular, there are some interesting parallells with Lou's observations.

THE HAPPY MAN
from The Winter Walk at Noon

He is the happy man whose life even now
Shows somewhat of that happier life to come;
Who, doomed to an obscure but tranquil state,
Is pleased with it, and, were he free to choose,
Would make his fate his choice; whom peace,
the fruit
Of virtue, and whom virtue, fruit of faith,
Prepare for happiness; bespeak him one
Content indeed to sojourn while he must
Below the skies, but having there his home.

The world o'erlooks him in her busy search
of objects, more illustrious in her view;
And, occupied as earnestly as she,
Though more sublimely, he o'erlooks the world.
She scorns his pleasures, for she knows them not;
He seeks not hers, for he has proved them vain.
He cannot skim the ground like summer birds
Pursuing gilded flies; and such he deems
Her honors, her emoluments, her joys.
Therefore in contemplation is his bliss,
Whose power is such that whom she lifts from earth
She makes familiar with a heaven unseen,
And shows him glories yet to be revealed.
Not slothful he, though seeming unemployed,
and censured oft as useless. Stillest streams
Oft water fairest meadows, and the bird
That flutters least is longest on the wing.

4 comments:

Arhianrad said...

Maria, between you and Lou, I'm speechless. One of the reasons I blog about perfume is because it's easy. It's so much harder to blog on life...

Arhianrad said...

Meant to say, Thanks for the poem!

Mary said...

I enjoyed that too. Read it twice. Poetry lovers rock!

Lou said...

Very fascinating, Maria. I'd not heard of Cowper before. I'm to read up on him. Thanks.