Poem: “Content and Rich”

Content and Rich

I dwell in Grace’s court,
Enriched with Virtue’s rights;
Faith guides my wit, Love leads my will,
Hope all my mind delights.

In lowly vales I mount
To pleasure’s highest pitch;
My silly shroud true honour brings;
My poor estate is rich.

My conscience is my crown,
Contented thoughts my rest;
My heart is happy in itself;
My bliss is in my breast.

Enough, I reckon wealth;
That mean, the surest lot,
That lies too high for base contempt,
Too low for envy’s shot.

My wishes are but few
All easy to fulfil;
I make the limits of my power
The bounds unto my will.

I fear no care for gold;
Well-doing is my wealth;
My mind to me an empire is,
While grace affordeth health.

I clip high-climbing thoughts,
The wings of swelling pride;
Their fall is worst that from the heigh
Of greatest honour slide.

Since sails of largest size
The storm doth soonest tear;
I bear so low and small a sail
As freeth me from fear.

I wrestle not with rage,
While fury’s flame doth burn;
It is in vain to stop the stream
Until the tide doth turn.

But when the flame is out,
And ebbing wrath doth end,
I turn a late enraged foe
Into a quiet friend.

And, taught with often proof,
A temper’d calm I find
To be most solace to itself,
Best cure for angry mind.

Spare diet is my fare,
My clothes more fit than fine;
I know I feed and clothe a foe,
That pamper’d would repine.

I envy not their hap
Whom favour doth advance;
I take no pleasure in their pain
That have less happy chance.

To rise by others’ fall
I deem a losing gain;
All states with others’ ruin built,
To ruin run amain.

No change of fortune’s calm
Can cast my comforts down;
When fortune smiles, I smile to think
How quickly she will frown.

And when, in froward mood,
She prov’d an angry foe;
Small gain I found to let her come, –
Less loss to let her go.

Robert Southwell

Robert Southwell was born in Norfolk, England in 1561. He studied and was ordained a Jesuit priest in Rome. At his own request he was sent as a missionary to England, well knowing the dangers he faced. It was a crime for any Englishman who had been ordained as a Catholic priest to remain in England more than forty days at a time. Although he lived mostly in London, he traveled in disguise and preached secretly throughout England. He was eventually caught and imprisoned. There he wrote poems to comfort himself and his fellow prisoners. On February 21, 1595 Southwell was brought to Tyburn, where he was hanged and then quartered for treason. Southwell's writings, both in prose and verse, were extremely popular with his contemporaries. He was declared a Saint by the Catholic Church in the year 1970.