Katherine Philips


How sacred and how innocent
    A country life appears;
How free from tumult, discontent,
    From flattery or fears!

This was the first and happiest life,
    When man enjoy'd himself;
Till pride exchangëd peace for strife,
    And happiness for pelf.

'Twas here the poets were inspired,
    Here taught the multitude;
The brave they here with honour fir'd,
    And civilised the rude.

The golden age did entertain
    No passion but of love;
The thoughts of ruling and of gain
    Did ne'er their fancies move.

None then did envy neighbour's wealth
    Nor plot to wrong his bed;
Happy in friendship and in health,
    On roots, not beasts, they fed.

They knew no law nor physic then,
    Nature was all their wit:
And if there yet remain to men
    Content, sure this is it.

What blessings doth this world afford
    To tempt or bribe desire!
Her courtship is all fire and sword,
    Who would not then retire?

Then welcome dearest solitude,
    My great felicity;
Though some are pleas'd to call thee rude,
    Thou art not so, but we.

Them that do covet only rest,
    A cottage will suffice:
It is not brave to be possest
    Of earth, but to despise.

Opinion is the rate of things,
    From hence our peace doth flow;
I have a better fate than kings,
    Because I think it so.

When all the stormy world doth roar,
    How unconcern'd am I!
I can not fear to tumble lower,
    Who never could be high.

Secure in these unenvy'd walls,
    I think not on the state,
And pity no man's case that falls
    From his ambitious height.

Silence and innocence are safe;
    A heart that's nobly true
At all these little arts can laugh
    That do the world subdue.

While others revel it in state,
    Here I'll contented sit,
And think I have as good a fate
    As wealth and pomp admit.

Let some in courtship take delight,
    And to th' Exchange resort;
Then revel out a winter's night,
    Not making love, but sport.

These never knew a noble flame,
    'Tis lust, scorn or design:
While vanity plays all their game,
    Let peace and honour mine.

When the inviting spring appears,
    To Hyde Park let them go,
And hasting thence be full of fears
    To lose Spring-Garden show.

Let others (nobler) seek to gain
    In knowledge happy fate,
And others busy them in vain
    To study ways of state.

But I resolvëd from within,
    Confirmëd from without,
In privacy intend to spin
    My future minutes out.

And from this hermitage of mine,
    I banish all wild toys,
And nothing that is not divine
    Shall dare to tempt my joys.

There are below but two things good,
    Friendship and Honesty;
And only those of all I would
    Ask for felicity.

In this retir'd and humble seat,
    Free from both war and strife,
I am not forc'd to make retreat,
    But choose to spend my life.

[AJ Notes:

pelf, contemptful term for money; wealth, esp. ill-acquired.

Compare this poem to other 17th-century "country house poems";
cf. Jonson's "To Penshurst" and Marvell's "Upon Appleton House";
see also Robert Herrick's "A Country Life."]

The Female Poets of Great Britain.
Frederic Rowton, ed.
Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1849. 68-71.

backto the Works of Katherine Philips

Site copyright ©1996-2006 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Anniina Jokinen on November 12, 2006.