The things that make a life of ease,
Dear Martial, are such things as these:
Wealth furnished not by work but birth,
A grateful farm, a blazing hearth,
No lawsuit, seldom formal dress;
But leisure, stalwart healthiness,
A tactful candour, equal friends,
Glad guests at board which naught pretends,
No drunken nights, but sorrow free,
A bed of joy yet chastity;
Sleep that makes darkness fly apace,
So well content with destined place,
Unenvious so as not to fear
Your final day, nor wish it near.

[Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
Iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
Res non parta labore, sed relicta;
Non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
Lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;
Vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
Prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
Convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
Nox non ebria, sed soluta curis;
Non tristis torus, et tamen pudicus;
Somnus, qui faciat breves tenebras:
Quod sis, esse velis nihilque malis;
Summum nec metuas diem nec optes.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 47 (10.47) (AD 95, 98 ed.) [tr. Duff (1929)]

To his friend, Julius Martialis. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Martial, the things that do attain
The happy life, be these, I find:
The riches left, not got with pain;
the fruitful ground, the quiet mind:
the equal friend, no grudge, no strife;
No charge of rule, nor governance;
Without disease, the healthful life;
The household of continuance:
The mean diet, no delicate fare;
True wisdom join'd with simpleness;
The night discharged of all care,
Where wine the wit may not oppress:
The faithful wife, without debate;
Such sleeps as may beguile the night.
Contented with thine own estate;
Ne wish for Death, ne Fear his might.
[tr. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1557)]

The Things that make the happier life, are these,
Most pleasant Martial; Substance got with ease,
Not labour'd for, but left thee by thy Sire;
A Soyle, not barren, a continewall fire;
Never at law; seldome in office gown'd;
A quiet mind; free powers; and body sound;
A wise simplicity; freindes alike-stated;
Thy table without art, and easy-rated:
Thy night not dronken, but from cares layd wast;
No sowre, or sollen bed-mate, yet a Chast;
Sleepe, that will make the darkest howres swift-pac't;
Will to bee, what thou art; and nothing more:
Nor feare thy latest day, nor wish therfore.
[tr. Jonson (1640)]

The things that make a life to please
(Sweetest Martiall), they are these:
Estate inherited, not got:
A thankful field, hearth always hot:
City seldom, law-suits never:
Equal friends agreeing ever:
Health of body, peace of mind:
Sleeps that till the morning bind:
Wise simplicity, plain fare:
Not drunken nights, yet loosed from care:
A sober, not a sullen spouse:
Clean strength, not such as his that plows;
Wish only what you are, to be;
Death neither wish, nor fear to see.
[tr. Fanshawe (1648)]

Those things which make life truly blest,
Sweetest Martial hear exprest:
Wealth left, and not from Labour growing;
A gratefull soyl, a Hearth still glowing;
No Strife, small Business, Peace of Mind,
Quick Wit, a Body well inclin'd,
Wise Innocence, Friends of one Hart,
Cheap Food, a Table without Art;
Nights which nor Cares, nor Surfets know,
No dull, yet a chaste Bedfellow;
Sleeps which the tedious Hours contract;
Be what thou mayst be, nor exact
ought more; nor thy last Hour of Breath
Fear, nor with wishes hasten Death.
[tr. Sherburne (1651)]

Most pleasant Martial these are they
That make the happyer life and day,
Means not sweat for, but resign'd,
Fire wihtout end, fields still in kinde,
No strife, no office, inward peace,
Free strength, a body sans disease,
A prudent plainesse, equal friends,
Cheap Cates, not scraped from the world's ends,
A night not drown'd, but free from care,
Sheets never sad, and yet chast are,
Sleep that makes hsort the shades of night,
Art such thou would'st be, if there might
A choice be offer'd, nor dost fear
Nor wish thy last dayes exit here.
[tr. Fletcher (1656)]

Since, dearest Friend! 'tis your desire to see
A true receipt of happiness from me;
These are the chief ingredients, if not all:
Take an estate neither too great, nor small
Which quantum sufficit the doctors call.
Let this estate from parents' care descend;
The getting it too much of life does spend.
Take such a ground, whose gratitude may be
A fair encouragement for industry.
Let constant fires the winter's fury take,
And let thy kitchen's be a vestal flame.
Thee to the town let never suit at law,
And rarely, very rarely, business draw.
They active mind in equal temper keep,
in undisturbed peace, yet not in sleep.
Let exercise a vigorous health maintain,
Without which all the composition's vain.
In the same weight prudence and innocence take;
And of each does the just mixture make.
But a few friendships wear, and let them be
By nature and by fortune fit for thee.
Instead of art and luxury in food,
Let mirth and freedom make thy table good.
If any cares into the daytime creep,
At night, without wine's opium, let them sleep,
Let rest, which nature does to darkness wed,
And not lust, recommend to thee thy bed.
Be satisfied, and pleas'd with what thou art;
Act cheerfully and well th' allotted part;
Enjoy the present hour, be thankful for the past,
And neither fear, nor with th' approaches of the last.
[tr. Cowley (1656)]

What things our Life do happy make
From me, my sweetest Martial, take.
A left Estate, not got with pain;
A fruitfull Field, that swells with grain;
A Kitching, that is ever warm;
Life free from Quarrels and from Harm.
Rarely to be concern;d with State,
Never to have Law-sutes , or debate;
But on the Mind Content to wait.
The Strength intire and Body sound,
And Innocence with Prudence crown'd:
An Equal and a Faithfull Friend,
Discourse, that may in Pleasure end,
Nor Feasts, that may to Riot tend.
No drunken Nights, yet such, as may
Wash off the sully of the Day.
No lonely Bed, yet One, that's chast;
And Sleep, that tedious Nights may wast.
With what we have to be Content,
Nor, what we have not, to resent:
Not fear our last approaching Day,
And yet not rashly fling our Life away.
[tr. Heyrick (1691)]

To make my life of all mens happyest,
Sweet Martiall, I w'ld bee wit these things blest:
A good Estate, nott gott with mine own toyle,
But by Descent: plac'd in a fruitfull soyle:
Well woodded, that may constant fyres mayntayne:
No private Suites: few publicke Cares: A Brayne
Untroubled: Body healthfull; active, strong;
Harmeless, butt prudent, in converse; among
Few friends of my owne rank: No curious Fare,
Butt wholesome: Nights, nott drunke, butt free from Care
A Wife though chast yett frolick in my Bedd:
Sound sleepe all Night to seize my drowsy head;
Wish to bee what thou art, and wish no higher:
And thy last End nor feare, nor yett desire.
[British Library MS Add. 27343 (17th C)]

Pleas'd alway with the lot my fates assign,
Let me no change desire, no change decline;
With every turn of Providence comply,
Not tir'd with life, nor yet afraid to die.
[tr. Fenton (c. 1725)]

Of things that heighten human bliss,
The sum, sweet Martial, may be this.
A freehold, not amast by care;
But dropt on a deserving heir:
A soil, that ev'ry culture pays,
A hearth, with never-dying blaze:
No contest, and but little court;
A quiet mind, her own support:
A gale, to fan ingenuous flame;
Exertion, to enforce the frame:
Simplicity, that wisdom blends;
Equality, the bond of friends:
An easy converse, artless board,
With all the little needfull stor'd:
A night not soaking, care effac'd;
A couch not dismal, always chaste:
Sleep stealing o'er the gloom so sweet,
That evening bids and morning meet.
content, which nought beyond aspires;
And death nor dreads, nor yet desires.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), 2.47]

Pleas'd with thy present lot, not grudging at the past
Nor fearing when thy time shall come, nor hoping for thy last.
[tr. Somerville (<1858)]

The requisites for a happy life are the following: competency inherited and not acquired by labour; productive land, a hearth with never lacks a fire; total absence of litigation; rare occasion for the toga; a quiet mind; unimpaired physical vigour; health of body; prudent simplicity; friends that are, in all respects, your equal; familiar society; a table devoid fo art; nights, not of revelling, but of freedom from cares; a couch not sad nor licentious; sleep, which curtails the time of darkness; to be exactly what you wish to be; preferring no other condition to your own; neither to dread nor to long for your last hour.
[tr. Amos (1858); includes a variety of commentary]

The things that make life happy, dearest Martial, are these: wealth not gained by labour, but inherited; lands that make no ill return; a hearth always warm; freedom from litigation; little need of business costume; a quiet mind; a vigorous frame; a healthy constitution; prudence without cunning; friends among our equals, and social intercourse; a table spread without luxury; nights, not of drunkenness, yet of freedom from care; a bed, not void of connubial pleasures, yet chaste; sleep, such as makes the darkness seem short; contentment with our lot, and no wish for change; and neither to fear death nor seek it.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

What makes the happiest life below,
A few plain rules, my friend, will show.
A good estate not earn'd with toil,
But left by will, or giv'n by fate;
A land of no ungrateful soil,
A constant fire within your grate:
No law; few cares; a quiet mind;
Strength unimpair'd, a healthful frame;
Wisdom with innocence combin'd;
Friends equal both in years and fame;
Your living easy, and your board
With food, but not with luxury stored
A Bed, though chaste, not solitary;
Sound sleep, to shorten night's dull reign;
Wish nothing that is yours to vary;
Think all enjoyments that remain;
And for the inevitable hour,
Nor hope it nigh, nor dread its power.
[tr. Merivale (<1871)]

These, Martial, are the things that give
A happier life than most men live.
A fortune not by labour on,
But left by father to his son;
A farm that yields no scant returns,
A hearth that ever brightly burns;
No law-suits, no heart-using cares;
A gown its owner seldom wears;
A constitution firmly knit,
And healthy frame accompanying it;
An honest canour, yet discreet,
With friends congenial and meet;
Good-natured guests your joys to share,
A pain and unpretentious fare;
No nights whose hours in revel pass,
Yet not uncheered by social glass;
A spouse of chaste yet merry sort;
Sound sleep that makes the darkness short;
A mind so well contented grown
It thinks no lot excels its own;
So blest, you neither wish nor fear
To see the closing hour draw near.
[tr. Webb (1879)]

What makes a happy life, dear friend,
If thou would'st briefly learn, attend.
An income left, not earned by toil;
Some acres of a kindly soil;
The pot unfailing on the fire;
No lawsuits; seldom town attire;
Health; strength with grace; a peaceful mind;
Shrewdness with honesty combined;
Plain living; equal friends and free;
Evenings of temperate gaiety;
A wife discreet, yet blithe and bright;
Sound slumber that lends wings to night.
With all thy heart embrace thy lot,
Wish not for death and fear it not.
[tr. Smith (1893)]

Martial, my best of friends, believe
Upon these terms ’tis good to live.
Wealth handed down, not bought by toil,
A genial hearth, a kindly soil;
Scant ceremonial, lawsuits none,
A mind a peace, a healthy tone
Of body, native strength withal,
Wise frankness, friends congenial,
Good company, a simple fare,
Of wine enough to banish care,
A bedfellow who's fondly shy,
Sound sleep to make the night go by,
Divine contentment with your lot,
Death not desired, but dreaded not.
[tr. Street (1907)]

Julius, the things that make for ease
And happiness in life are these:
Lands left me, not acquired with toil;
Unfailing fuel; kindly soil;
No suits; light work; mind void of whims;
Good constitution; healthy limbs;
Frank thoughts; plain board; congenial friends;
Meals that, with Plenty, Mirth attends;
Nights with good cheer, not drinking, sped;
A glad, but not immodest bed;
Sound sleep that makes the darkness fly;
content with life, if I be I,
Without the fear, or wish, to die.
[tr. Courthope (1914)]

The things that make life happier, most genial Martial, are these: means not acquired by labour, but bequeathed; fields not unkindly, an ever blazing hearth; no lawsuit, the toga seldom worn, a quiet mind; a free man's strength, a healthy body; frankness with tact, congenial friends, good-natured guests, a board plainly spread; nights not spent in wine, but freed from cares, a wife not prudish and yet pure; sleep such as makes the darkness brief; be content with what you are, and wish no change, nor dread your last day, nor long for it.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

The things that make a happy life,
My genial friend, are these:
A quiet dwelling free from strife,
Health, strength, a mind at ease;
Money bequeathed, not hardly won,
A blazing fire when work is done.
Ingenuous prudence, equal friends,
Bright talk and simple fare,
a farm that crops ungrudging lends,
Soberness free from care,
A wife who's chaste yet fond of sport,
And sleep that makes the night seem short.
With what you are be satisfied,
Nor let ambition range;
Contented still whate'er betide
And caring naught for change.
Pray not for death nor yet feel fear
When the last hour life draws near.
[tr. Wright (1921)]

Dear Martial, if you'ld happy be,
Here's the unfailing recipe.
An income not procured by toil,
A blazing hearth, a grateful soil,
Quiet, undress, no suit at law,
Good health and strength without a flaw,
Shrewd frankness, many a loyal heart,
Kind guests, a table void of art,
Nights careless, sober, bed that's chaste
But cheerful, sleep the night to waste;
Contented seek no other fate,
Nor wish nor fear your death to wait.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), #544, "To His Cousin"]

Here are the things, dear friend, which make
Life not impossible to take:
Riches bequeathed, not won by toil;
Fire on the hearth; responsive soil;
No law suits; seldom formal dress;
A frank but wise disarmingness;
A healthy body, and a mind
Alert, but peaceably inclined;
Congenial guests; a table set
Without excessive etiquette;
Nights free from exigence and worry,
But not too bleary or too blurry;
In bed, a wife not frigid nor
Too reminiscent of a whore;
Slumber, to make the shadows swift;
Contentment with your native gift;
And, without longing or dismay,
The prospect of your final day.
[tr. Humphries (1963)]

These are the things, my handsome friend,
That make life happier to the end:
Wealth, not as an employee
Amassed, but as a legatee,
A farm responsive to my care,
A fire to warm my pensive chair,
Lawsuits never, rare the bane
Of dinner-suits, a mind that's sane,
A body sound, a shoulder free,
Not bowed by fear or slavery.
A disposition frank but kind,
Friends with me of an equal mind,
Friends who easily are led
To share my table plainly spread;
Wine at night the cares of day
To smile at and to chase away,
Fun and merriment in bed
But such as proper to those wed,
A sleep that makes the night on wings
Depart, and blessed daylight brings,
To be content with what we are,
And not to curse our natal star,
Never to fear the final day,
Never for death to hope and pray.
[tr. Marcellino (1968), "On Happiness"]

The things that make life better
are these, my good friend Julius Martial:
Money you inherit and don't have to work for,
a fruitful field, an unfailing fire,
no lawsuit in sight, being seldom obliged
to don the toga, a mind unhampered by cares,
a body in good condition, and still endowed
with the strength it always had,
deliberately living on the small scale
with friends and equals, just good company;
no fussing around with costly dinner parties,
the sort of night that cheers you up
without landing you dead drunk
on a couch that's neither prudish
nor abandoned,
and then a good long sleep
that makes the darkness short.
And this above all, to accept yourself
as you really are
and to wish for nothing more.
If you live like this, my good friend Julius Martial,
you won't either long for
or wince at
your last day on earth.
[tr. Bovie (1970)]

Friend and namesake, genial Martial, life’s
happier when you know what happiness is:
money inherited, with no need to work,
property run by experts (yours or your wife’s),
Town House properly kitchened and no bus-
iness worries, family watchdogs, legal quirks.
Hardly ever required to wear a suit,
mind relaxed and body exercised
(nothing done that’s just seen to be done),
candour matched by tact; friends by repute
won and all guests good-natured -- wise
leavers and warm stayers like the sun;
food that isn’t smart or finicky,
not too often drunk or shaking off
dolorous dreams; your appetite for sex
moderate but inventive, nights like sea-
scapes under moonlight, never rough;
don’t scare yourself with formulae, like x
equals nought, the schizophrenic quest!
What else is there? Well, two points at least --
wishing change wastes both time and breath,
life's unfair and nothing's for the best,
but having started finish off the feats --
neither dread your last day nor long for death.
[tr. Porter (1972)]

Of what does the happy life consist,
My dear friend, Julius? Here's a list:
Inherited wealth, no need to earn,
Fires that continually burn,
And fields that give a fair return,
No lawsuits, formal togas worn
Seldom, a calm mind, the freeborn
Gentleman's health and good physique,
Tact with the readiness to speak
Openly, friends of your own mind,
Guests of an easy-going kind,
Plain food, a table simply set,
Nights sober but wine-freed from fret,
A wife who's true to you and yet
No prude in bed, and sleep so sound
It makes the down come quickly round.
Be pleased with what you are, keep hope
Within that self-appointed scope;
Neither uneasily apprehend
Nor morbidly desire the end.
[tr. Michie (1972)]

Most delightful Martialis, the elements of a happy life are as follows: money not worked for but inherited; land not unproductive; a fire all the year round; lawsuits never, a gown rarely worn, a mind at peace; a gentleman's strength, a healthy body; guielessness not naive, friends of like degree, easy company, a table without frills; a night not drunken but free of cares; a marriage bed not austere and yet modest; sleep to make the dark hours short; a wish to be what you are, wish nothing better; don't fear your last day, nor yet pray for it.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

A life so blest you would put none before it?
Some money, just enough you can ignore it.
Some fertile fields on your producing farm,
And hearth ablaze within to keep you warm.
No lawsuits, no bought formal wear, no hassle.
A body trim, without a trainer's wrastle.
A mind secure, with trusting friends, not silly.
A house with taste designed, not frilly.
Nights drinking deep, but not to stupor given
A bedmate warm, but not to frenzy driven.
A sleep not enervating that renews.
A sense of what you are in all your views.
A wish to wish no other thing ahead.
Acceptance that in time you must be dead.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

My carefree Namesake, this the heart
Shall lead thee to life's happier part:
A competence inherited, not one,
Productive acres and a constant home;
No courts, few formal days, your mind stable,
A native figure in a healthy frame;
A tact in candor, friendships on a part,
Convivial courtesies, a plain table;
A night, not drunken, yet shall banish care,
A bed, not frigid, yet not one of shame;
A sleep that makes the dark hours shorter:
Prefer your state and hanker for none other,
Nor fear, nor seek to meet, your final hour.
[tr Whigham (1987), "Means to Attain"]

These, my dearest Martialis, are
the things that bring a happy life:
wealth left to you, not laboured for;
rich land, an ever-glowing hearth;
no law, light business, and a quiet mind;
a healthy body, gentlemanly powers;
a wise simplicity, friends not unlike;
good company, a table without art;
nights carefree, yet no drunkenness;
a bed that’s modest, true, and yet not cold;
sleep that makes the hours of darkness brief:
the need to be yourself, and nothing more;
not fearing your last day, not wishing it.
[tr. Kline (2006), "The Good Life"]

What constitutes a happy life?
Enough money to meet your needs
steady work
a comfortable fire
a clear distance from law
a minimum of city business
a peaceful mind and a healthy body
simple wisdom and firm friends
enjoyable dinners and plain living
nights free from care
A virtuous wife who's not a prude
enough sleep to make the darkness short
contentment with the life you have,
avoiding the sneer, the poisoned sigh;
no fear of death
and no desire to die.
[tr. Kennelly (2008), "A happy life"]

Most genial Martial, these things are
the elements that make life blessed:
money inherited, not earned;
a fire year-round, a mind at rest,
productive land, no lawsuits, togas
rarely, friends of like degree,
a gentleman's physique, sound health,
shrewd innocence, good company,
plain fair, nights carefree, yet not drunk;
a bed that's decent, not austere;
sleep, to make darkness brief desire
to be just what you are, no higher;
and death no cause for hope or fear.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

These are the things, my dearest Martial, which make life happier: possessions not gotten from labor, but left to you; a not ungrateful field, a fireplace always warm; never any strife, rarely putting on the toga, a quiet mind; inborn strength, a healthy body; wise simplicity and equal friends; easy dining, and a simple table; sober nights, but still free of cares; a bed that isn’t sad, but still with its share of modesty; sleep to make the shadows short; to wish to be what you are, and to desire nothing else; not to fear your final day, nor yet to wish for it.
[tr. @sentantiq/Robinson (2020)]

Added on 24-Dec-21 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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