Gentle sex and free money
List the twelve things we need in order to be happy.
And which is the poem most often translated into English from another language?
In it is a neat contemporary version of Martial's epigram (10.47) on the best way to attain a happy life, a dozen things which we all need at all times.
This is surely the one, the Latin poem (at least) that has most often found an English home - and all because it gives such good answers.
Martial, a Spaniard who came to Rome in the reign of Nero and survived his successors till early in the second century AD, set out a long list of necessities for happiness - from unearned income to fearlessness before death.
To cite his English imitators, they are:
'The richesse left, not got with pain. . .' (Henry Howard, c. 1540)
'A Soyle, not barren; a continewall fire. .' (Ben Jonson, 1640)
'City seldome, Law-suits never. .' (Richard Fanshawe, 1648)
'Quick wit, a Body well inclin'd. .' (Edward Sherburne, 1651)
'A prudent plainesse, equal friends. .' (Robert Fletcher, 1656)
'Thy active mind in equal temper keep . .' (Abraham Cowley, 1668)
'Discourse that may in Pleasure end. .' (Thomas Heyrick, 1691)
'A wife discreet, yet blithe and bright. . ' (Goldwin Smith, 1903)
'Of wine enough to banish care. .' (A.E. Street, 1907)
'Sound sleep that makes the darkness fly. .' (W.J.Courthope, 1914)
'Contentment with your native gift. .' (Rolfe Humphries, 1963)
'Neither dread your last day, nor long for death. .' (Peter Porter, 1972)
A good list.
OK, it needs a little gender-adjustment. But the list for a happy human seems to have been much the same throughout the ages?
Weiner makes some additions of his own:
'Open affection with your wife and kids'.
And he borrows also from elsewhere in Martial, (Book 8, Epigram14):
'Clear pipes in winter, in summer screens that fit'
'A bed in which to love, read, dream and re-imagine love'.
And he ends with a free grace that any of his predecessors might have appreciated.
'To know the soul exceeds where it's confined
Yet does not seek the terms of its release,
Like a child's kite catching at the wind
That flies because the hand holds tight the line.'