Katherine Philips

Content, To my dearest

     CONTENT, the false World's best disguise,
     The search and faction of the wise,
     Is so abstruse and hid in night,
     That, like that Fairy Red-cross Knight,*
Who treacherous Falsehood for clear Truth had got,
Men think they have it when they have it not.

     For Courts Content would gladly own,
     But she ne'er dwelt about a throne:
     And to be flatter'd, rich, and great,
     Are things which do men's senses cheat.
But grave Experience long since this did see,
Ambition and Content would ne'er agree.

     Some vainer would Content expect
     From what their bright outsides reflect:
     But sure Content is more divine
     Than to be digg'd from rock or mine:
And they that know her beauties will confess,
She needs no lustre from a glittering dress.

     In Mirth some place her, but she scorns
     Th' assistance of such crackling thorns,
     Nor owes her self to such thin sport,
     That is so sharp and yet so short:
And painters tell us they the same strokes place
To make a laughing and a weeping face.

     Others there are that place Content
     In liberty from Government:
     But whomsoe'er Passions deprave,
     Though free from shackles, he's a slave.
Content and Bondage differ only then,
When we are chain'd by vices, not by men.

     Some think the camp Content does know,
     And that she sits o' th' victor's brow:
     But in his laurel there is seen
     Often a cypress-brow between.
Nor will Content herself in that place give,
Where Noise and Tumult and Destruction live.

     But yet the most discreet believe,
     The Schools this jewel do receive,
     And thus far's true without dispute,
     Knowledge is still the sweetest fruit.
But whilst men seek for Truth they lose their peace;
And who heaps knowledge, sorrow doth increase.†

     But now some sullen Hermit smiles,
     And thinks he all the world beguiles,
     And that his cell and dish contain
     What all mankind wish for in vain.
But yet his pleasure's follow'd with a groan,
For man was never born to be alone.

     Content herself best comprehends
     Betwixt two souls, and they two friends,
     Whose either joys in both are fix'd,
     And multiplied by being mix'd:
Whose minds and interests are so the same;
Their griefs, when once imparted, lose that name.

     These far remov'd from all bold noise,
     And (what is worse) all hollow joys,
     Who never had a mean design,
     Whose flame is serious and divine,
And calm, and even, must contented be,
For they've both Union and Society.

     Then, my Lucasia, we who have
     Whatever Love can give or crave;
     Who can with pitying scorn survey
     The trifles which the most betray;
With innocence and perfect friendship fir'd,
By Virtue join'd, and by our choice retir'd.

     Whose mirrors are the crystal brooks,
     Or else each other's hearts and looks;
     Who cannot wish for other things
     Than privacy and friendship brings:
Whose thoughts and persons chang'd and mixt are one,
Enjoy Content, or else the World hath none.

[AJ Notes:
     * cf. Spenser's Faerie Queene.
     † King James Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:18.—
"For in much wisdom is much grief: and
 he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." ]

Philips, Katherine. Poems, 1678.
in Minor Poets of the Caroline Period.
George Saintsbury, ed.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905. 520-22.

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