“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!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem Contentment


  1. renaly cadiz says:

    this poem is very nice and truthful and realistic. We know that it is some what ironical and yet true, that we human is not contented of what we have, we are longing for more.As the title says “contentment” and the message of the poem talks about a persons discontentment. JUST READ BEYOND THE LINES that’s my advice for you to understand much.

  2. capote says:

    This poem is an excellent example of understatement, commenting on how the writer would only ask to own a certain number of paintings, but one must be a landscape, etc. The juvenalian satire in this work is a key effect in establishing Holmes’s criticism of human society.

  3. Wallace says:

    A quite refreshing poem! It is very realistic and shows that one does not need all the nice things in this world to be happy but rather some. I think this is what most stands out in the poem for me; as Holmes was honest to his readers and himself. Many have written about happiness and contentment and have stated that all they need are the bear necessities of this world to fulfill that.These people are simply lying to themselves as it is human nature to always want more than that which is sufficient. Holmes has establish this very well in his poem.

  4. murat says:

    this poem is really soo nice.but a bit complex.neverthless to read it made me happy.so thank you Oliver Wendell Holmes .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.