Quotations about:
    contentment


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AHASUERAS: I am content.
ESTHER: Content is not the pathway to great deeds.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“The Drama of Mizpah: Honeymoon Scene,” Poems of Progress (1909)
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Added on 6-Feb-24 | Last updated 6-Feb-24
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Total contentment is only for cows.

Bette Midler
Bette Midler (b. 1945) American singer, actress, comedian, author
The Saga of Baby Divine (1983)
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Added on 16-Jan-24 | Last updated 16-Jan-24
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If you desire power, desire nothing
but contentment, which is its own kingdom.

Sa'adi (1184-1283/1291?) Persian poet [a.k.a. Sa'di, Moslih Eddin Sa'adi, Mushrif-ud-Din Abdullah, Muslih-ud-Din Mushrif ibn Abdullah, Mosleh al-Din Saadi Shirazi, Shaikh Mosslehedin Saadi Shirazi]
Gulistān [Rose Garden, گُلِستان], ch. 2 “On the Morals of Dervishes,” Story 28 (1258) [tr. Rehatsek/Newman (2004)]
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Alternate translations:

If you want riches, seek only for contentment which is inestimable wealth.
[tr. Gladwin (1806)]

Wouldest thou be rich, seek, but content to gain;
For this a treasure is that ne'er will harm.
[tr. Eastwick (1852)]

If thou wishest for power, covet nothing
Except contentment which is sufficient happiness.
[tr. Burton (1888)]

If thou covetest riches, ask not but for contentment, which is an immense treasure.
[tr. Ross (1900)]

Seek not, if thou desire riches,
Aught but contentment, for it is an agreeable treasure.
[tr. Platts (1904)]

 
Added on 26-Dec-23 | Last updated 26-Dec-23
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He who is content with what has been done is an obstacle in the path of progress.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Our Duties to the Blind,” speech, Massachusetts Assoc. for Promoting the Interests of the Adult Blind, Boston (1904-01-05)
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Reprinted in Out of the Dark: Essays, Lectures, and Addresses on Physical and Social Vision (1907).
 
Added on 19-Dec-23 | Last updated 19-Dec-23
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A person who lacks the means, within himself, to live a good and happy life will find any period of his existence wearisome. But rely for life’s blessings on your own resources, and you will not take a gloomy view of any of the inevitable consequences of nature’s laws. Everyone hopes to attain an advanced age; yet when it comes they all complain! So foolishly inconsistent and perverse can people be.

[Quibus enim nihil est in ipsis opis ad bene beateque vivendum, eis omnis aetas gravis est; qui autem omnia bona a se ipsi petunt, eis nihil malum potest videri quod naturae necessitas adferat. Quo in genere est in primis senectus, quam ut adipiscantur omnes optant, eandem accusant adeptam; tanta est stultitiae inconstantia atque perversitas.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Senectute [Cato Maior; On Old Age], ch. 2 / sec. 4 (2.4) [Cato] (44 BC) [tr. Grant (1960, 1971 ed.)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

For eche of thies ages which men name Childhode, adolescence, yongth, virilite, manhode & olde age semyn to be hevy & noxous to men the which in them silf have nothyng that may help & socoure them to lyve goodly & blessidly as bee, the which excercisen sciences & vertues & good werkis, but as to suche men which sechyn & fyndyn in themsilf alle the goods & thyngis which belongyn wele & blessidly for to lyve, ther is nothyng that comyth to them in age by the defaute of nature that may seme unto them evyll nor noxous. It is certayne that olde age is suche that it serchith & fyndyth in it self all the goodnesses whch longen to live wel & blyssidly, and yet is olde age such that alle men desyre to come untyll hit, And never the lesse the mutablenes & evyl dysposicion of men it is so grete in oure dayes that they blamyn olde age whan they be come therto by cause that then they may not use delectacions.
[tr. Worcester/Worcester/Scrope (1481)]

For they that have no power, pith of wit, help, way nor virtue in themselves to conduct and bring them to a good and blessed life, unto such as these be, all their age is cumbersome and unpleasant. But unto such as lead their lives virtuously, measuring all their actions by the square of reason, and have their minds with all good gifts of grace beautified and garnished, there is nothing thought nor deemed evil that cometh by necessity of nature. Of the which sort old age is principally to be considered, unto which all men wish to arrive, and yet when they have their desire, they accuse it as painful, sickly, unpleasant and tedious, such is the brainless unconstancy, foolish sottage, and perverse overthwartness of wayward people.
[tr. Newton (1569)]

For that age is only grievous to those that have no taste of wisdome and learning in themselves to make them live happily: but to them which see all perfection and consolation from their own experience, nothing can seem heavy which the necessity of nature bringeth: of which sort old age is chief, which all desire to obtain, and blame being obtained; such is their unconstancy, foolishnesse and perversity.
[tr. Austin (1648)]

For to those who have nothing within themselves capable of making Life happy, and satisfactory, no wonder if every Stage of it should prove irksome, and vexatious: but, to those who derive all their satisfaction from an easy mind, nothing can seem grievous and tormenting, that proceeds from the irreversible Laws of Nature; which certainly is the case of Old Age,, whereunto though 'tis the earnest desire of all men to arrive, yet such is their unaccountable folly, and perverseness, that they are never more uneasy than when they have arrived at it.
[tr. Hemming (1716)]

All Ages are grievous to those who have not in themselves the Means of living Holy and Happy; but those who expect all Happiness from their own Virtues, don't look up on the Decay of Nature as a Hardship, whereof Old Age is the chiefest, and which all desire to attain to; but is no sooner tasted than declaim'd against. Such are the Effects of Inconstancy, Folly, and the Want of Wisdom.
[tr. J. D. (1744)]

For know this, that those who have no Aid or Support within themselves, to render their Lives easy, will find every State irksome: While such as are convinced, they must owe their Happiness to themselves, and that if they cannot find it in their own Breasts, they will never meet with it from abroad; will never consider any thing as an Evil, that is but a necessary Effect of the established Order of Nature; which Old Age most undoubtedly is. 'Tis certainly strange, that while all Men hope they may live to attain it, any should find Fault with it, when it comes their Share. Yet such is the Levity, Folly, and Perverseness of Mankind, that we see there is nothing more common.
[tr. Logan (1744)]

Those indeed who have no internal resource of happiness, will find themselves uneasy in every stage of human life: but to him who is accustomed to derive all his felicity from within himself, no state will appear as a real evil into which he is conducted by the common and regular course of nature. Now this is peculiarly the case with respect to old age : yet such is the inconsistency of human folly, that the very period which at a distance is every man's warmest wish to attain, no sooner arrives than it is equally the object of his lamentations.
[tr. Melmoth (1773)]

For to those that have nought of resource in themselves for living well and happily, every stage of life is burthensome; while to those that seek all their goods from themselves, nothing can seem an evil, which the law of Nature may bring them. In which class foremost stands old age, which all desire to attain, but arraign the same when attained; so great is the inconsistency and perverseness of folly.
[Cornish Bros. ed. (1847)]

For to those who have no resource in themselves for living well and happily, every age is burdensome; but to those who seek all good things from themselves, nothing can appear evil which the necessity of nature entails; in which class particularly is old age, which all men wish to attain, and yet they complain of it when they have attained it; so great is the inconsistency and waywardness of folly.
[tr. Edmonds (1874)]

For those who have in themselves no resources for a good and happy life, every period of life is burdensome; but to those who seek all goods from within, nothing which comes in the course of nature can seem evil. Under this head a place especially belongs to old age, which all desire to attain, yet find fault with it when they have reached it. Such is the inconsistency and perverseness of human folly.
[tr. Peabody (1884)]

But those who look for all happiness from within can never think anything bad which nature makes inevitable. In that category before anything else comes old age, to which all wish to attain, and at which all grumble when attained. Such is Folly's inconsistency and unreasonableness!
[tr. Shuckburgh (1895)]

Of course
To those who've no resources in themselves
For a good and happy life, why, every age
Is hard to bear: but those who have within
All that is needful for a life well-spent,
Can never find misfortune in the lot
That nature's laws impose. And one such lot
Is that old age must come to each and all,
Old age so fondly hoped for, when it comes,
So Oft found to be irksome. Such, alas!
Is Folly's want of reason and resolve.
[tr. Allison (1916)]

For to those who have not the means within themselves of a virtuous and happy life every age is burdensome; and, on the other hand, to those who seek all good from themselves nothing can seem evil that the laws of nature inevitably impose. To this class old age especially belongs, which all men wish to attain and yet reproach when attained; such is the inconsistency and perversity of Folly!
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

People, you see, who have no inner resources for living the good and happy life, find every age a burden. But men who seek all good from within themselves are simply unable to view as evil anything that comes about through nature’s law. Now old age, as much as anything else in this world, is such a thing. All men hope and pray to attain it; once they have attained it, they start finding fault with it.
[tr. Copley (1967)]

Some people just do not possess the optimism that would allow them to live contentedly under any circumstances: for them every stage of life is a burden. But if only they expected nothing but good for themselves, nothing that the natural passage of time brought them could seem bad. This is especially true of old age. Everybody wants to live for a long time, but when they have attained their goal, they grumble. It makes no sense -- but that’s what life is: perverse and inconsistent.
[tr. Cobbold (2012)]

Someone who doesn't have much in the way of inner resources will find all stages of life irksome, but someone whose character is in order will accept what nature brings and not complain about something perfectly natural, calling it evil. There is much nonsense bandied about old age, something which everyone wishes to reach, but which most complain about once they get there. That seems more than slightly inconsistent and perverse, doesn't it?
[tr. Gerberding (2014)]

They find every age oppressive, of course,
Who in their inner selves have no resource
To live an easy life in happiness,
But they who in themselves only find
Their own contentment and peace of mind
See no harm in nature’s due process
Whose termination inevitably
May lead to that state of senility
To which they keenly lay claim,
But once attained rather foolishly,
With malice and incongruity,
Promptly find reasons to blame.
[tr. Bozzi (2015)]

Those who lack within themselves the means for living a blessed and happy life will find any age painful. But for those who seek good things within themselves, nothing imposed on them by nature will seem troublesome. Growing older is a prime example of this. Everyone hopes to reach old age, but when it comes, most of us complain about it. People can be so foolish and inconsistent.
[tr. Freeman (2016)]

Every age is burdensome to those who have no means of living well and happily. But to those who seek all good from themselves, nothing which the necessity of nature offers can appear bad. Old age is a prime example of this sort of thing -- everyone wishes to attain it, but they always complain about it once it is attained. Such is the inconstancy and perversity of stupidity.
[tr. Robinson [@sentantiq] (2017)]

 
Added on 15-Dec-23 | Last updated 15-Dec-23
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If you are foolish enough to be contented, don’t show it, but grumble with the rest; and if you can do with a little, ask for a great deal. Because if you don’t you won’t get any.

Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) English writer, humorist [Jerome Klapka Jerome]
“On Getting On In the World,” The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1889)
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Added on 5-Dec-23 | Last updated 5-Dec-23
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Happy the man, of mortals happiest he,
Whose quiet mind from vain desires is free;
Whom neither hopes deceive, nor fears torment,
But lives at peace, within himself content;
In thought, or act, accountable to none
But to himself, and to the gods alone.

George Granville
George Granville (1666-1735) English politician, poet, playwright [1st Baron Lansdowne]
“Epistle to Mrs. Higgons,” l. 79ff (1690)
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Added on 28-Nov-23 | Last updated 28-Nov-23
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Better is a little with contentment than great Treasure; and trouble therewith.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) American correspondent, First Lady (1797-1801)
Letter to Mary Smith Cranch (1790-02-20)
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FOOL: He that has and a little tiny wit,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
Though the rain it raineth every day.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 81ff (3.2.81-84) (1606)
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You are the sun who heals all clouded sight.
Solving my doubts, you bring me such content
That doubt, no less than knowing, is delight.

[O sol che sani ogne vista turbata,
tu mi contenti sì quando tu solvi,
che, non men che saver, dubbiar m’aggrata.]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 1 “Inferno,” Canto 11, l. 91ff (11.91-93) [Dante] (1320) [tr. Kirkpatrick (2006)]
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Flattering Virgil before he asks another question. (Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

O you, who like the Sun each weaken'd sight
Relieve, and give such pleasure when you clear
My doubts, that I to raise them oft desire.
[tr. Rogers (1782), l. 89ff]

Can I repent my doubts! illumin'd Bard,
When thus thy heav'nly words my doubts reward?
[tr. Boyd (1802), st. 14]

O Sun! who healest all imperfect sight,
Thou so content’st me, when thou solv’st my doubt,
That ignorance not less than knowledge charms.
[tr. Cary (1814)]

O Sun, that healest every troubled sight!
So full content, thou solving, doth ensue,
Glads me no less to doubt, than judge aright.
[tr. Dayman (1843)]

O Sun! who healest all troubled vision, thou makest so glad when thou resolvest me, that to doubt is not less grateful than to know.
[tr. Carlyle (1849)]

Thou sun, that clearest every clouded sight,
You so content me to dissolve the knot,
To know is scarce so pleasing as to doubt.
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

Oh, sun! thou healer of the troubled sight,
What thou declarest makes me so content,
That as in knowledge I rejoice in doubt.
[tr. Johnston (1867)]

O Sun, that healest all distempered vision,
Thou dost content me so, when thou resolvest,
That doubting pleases me no less than knowing!
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

O Sun that healest every troubled sight, so dost thou content me when thou solvest, that doubting gives me no less pleasure than knowing.
[tr. Butler (1885)]

O Sun, that healest every troubled sight.
Thou so contentest me when thou mak'st clear
Doubts, that no less than knowledge they delight.
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

O Sun that healest every troubled vision, thou dost content me so, when thou explainest, that doubt, not less than knowledge, pleaseth me.
[tr. Norton (1892)]

O sun, that bringest healing unto all clouded vision, thou grantest unto me such satisfaction in thine unravelling, that doubting doth delight me.
[tr. Sullivan (1893)]

Oh! sun, who makest whole all troubled vision.
Thou dost content me so when thou resolvest
That doubt is joy to me, no less than knowledge.
[tr. Griffith (1908)]

O Sun that healest all troubled sight, so dost thou satisfy me with the resolving of my doubts that it is no less grateful to me to question than to know.
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

O Sun, who heal'st all troubled vision, and so
Contentest me where thou doest certify,
That to doubt pleaseth not less than to know ....
[tr. Binyon (1943)]

O Sun that healest all dim sight, thou so
Doest charm me in resolving of my doubt,
To be perplexed is pleasant as to know.
[tr. Sayers (1949)]

O sun which clears all mists from troubled sight,
such joy attends your rising that I feel
as grateful to the dark as to the light.
[tr. Ciardi (1954)]

O sun that heal every troubled vision, you do content me so, when you solve, that questioning, no less than knowing, pleases me.
[tr. Singleton (1970)]

O sun that shines to clear a misty vision,
such joy is mine when you resolve my doubts
that doubting pleases me no less than knowing!
[tr. Musa (1971)]

O sun that heals all sight that is perplexed,
when I ask you, your answer so contents
that doubting pleases me as much as knowing.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1980)]

O sun who clears every obscure perception
You give such satisfaction when you enlighten me
That, not less than knowledge, doubt is agreeable.
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

O sun, that makes all troubled vision clear,
You give solutions I am so contented with
That asking, no less than knowing, pleases me.
[tr. Pinsky (1994), l. 87ff]

O sun that heals every clouded sight, you content me so when you resolve questions, that doubting is no less pleasurable than knowing.
[tr. Durling (1996)]

O Sun, that heals all troubled sight, you make me so content when you explain to me, that to question is as delightful as to know.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

O sun, you who heal all troubled sight,
you so content me by resolving doubts
it pleases me no less to question than to know.
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

O shining sun, healer of troubled vision,
I'm satisfied so well, my mind so settled,
That knowledge pleases me no more than asking questions!
[tr. Raffel (2010)]

"Bright sun," I said, you calm these doubts of mine
As you heal any troubled sight. Such ease
You bring me that to question pleases me
Like being answered."
[tr. James (2013)]

 
Added on 24-Mar-23 | Last updated 24-Mar-23
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OLD LADY: Our content
Is our best having.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry VIII, Act 2, sc. 3, l. 27ff (2.3.27-28) (1613)
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WORCESTER: For mine own part I could be well content
To entertain the lag end of my life
With quiet hours.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry IV, Part 1, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 24 (5.1.24-26) (1597)
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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)]
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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)]

 
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That person, then, whose mind is quiet through consistency and self-control, who finds contentment in himself, and neither breaks down in adversity nor crumbles in fright, nor burns with any thirsty need nor dissolves into wild and futile excitement, that person is the wise one we are seeking, and that person is happy.

[Ergo hic, quisquis est, qui moderatione et constantia quietus animo est sibique ipse placatus, ut nec tabescat molestiis nec frangatur timore nec sitienter quid expetens ardeat desiderio nec alacritate futtili gestiens deliquescat, is est sapiens quem quaerimus, is est beatus.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 4, ch. 17 (4.17) / sec. 37 (45 BC) [tr. Graver (2002)]
    (Source)

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

He therefore, call him by what name you will, who through Moderation and Constancy, hath quiet of mind, and is at Peace with himself; so as neither to fret out of Discontent, nor to be confounded with Fear, who neither is inflam'd with an impatient longing after any thing, nor ravish'd out of himself into the Fools Paradice of an empty Mirth; this is the wise man, after whom we are in quest; this the Happy man.
[tr. Wase (1643)]

Whoever then, through moderation and consistency, is at rest in his mind, and in calm possession of himself, so as neither to pine with care, nor be dejected with fear, neither to be inflamed with desire, nor dissolved by extravagant joy, such a one is the very wise man we enquire after, the happy man.
[tr. Main (1824)]

Therefore the man, whoever he is, who has quiet of mind, through moderation and constancy, and thus at peace with himself, is neither corroded with cares, nor crippled by fear; and, thirsting for nothing impatiently, is exempt from the fires of desire, and, dizzied by the fumes of no futile felicity, reels with no riotous joy: this is the wise man we seek: this man is happy.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

Whoever, then, through moderation and constancy, is at rest in his mind, and in calm possession of himself, so as neither to pine with care, nor be dejected with fear, nor to be inflamed with desire, coveting something greedily, nor relaxed by extravagant mirth, -- such a man is that identical wise man whom we are inquiring for, he is the happy man.
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

Whoever then has his mind kept in repose by moderation and firmness, and is at peace with himself so that he is neither wasted by troubles nor broken down by fear, nor burns with longing in his thirsty quest of some object of desire, nor flows out in the demonstration of empty joy, is the wise man whom we seek; he is the happy man.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

 
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The cat does not merely experience contentment, he exudes it. You cannot be in the presence of a contented cat and not have some of that contentment rub off on you. Which surely is a good part of the reason we love cats so.

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (b. 1941) American author
The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats: A Journey Into the Feline Heart, ch. 3 (2002)
    (Source)
 
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Maturity begins when we’re content to feel we’re right about something without feeling the necessity to prove someone else wrong.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
(Attributed)

Frequently attributed to Harris, but the original source has not been found. Earliest citation I could find was in Reader's Digest (1973), where it is further credited to the Publishers-Hall Syndicate.
 
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Man is the only animal who does not feel at home in nature, who can feel evicted from paradise, the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem that he has to solve and from which he cannot escape.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) American psychoanalyst and social philosopher
The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, ch. 10 (1973)
    (Source)

Sometimes elided, "Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem he has to solve."
 
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Dreadful will be the day when the world becomes contented, when one great universal satisfaction spreads itself over the world. Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life that he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger which he knows that he was meant and made to do because he is a child of God.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American clergyman, hymnist
Daily Thoughts from Phillips Brooks (1893)
 
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[T.E. Lawrence] is one of those great men for whom one feels intensely sorry because he was nothing but a great man.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Letter to Virginia Ocampo (12 Dec 1946)
 
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It has not yet been recorded that any human being has gained a very large or permanent contentment from meditation upon the fact that he is better off than others.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street (1920)
 
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Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Vedanta for the Western World, “Distractions I” (1954)
 
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Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and books, raising kids — all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
“The Meaning of Life,” We Are Still Married (1989)
 
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CAESAR: Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights:
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Julius Caesar, Act 1, sc. 2, l. 202ff (1.2.202-205) (1599)
    (Source)

See Plutarch.
 
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A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“What Is Man?” (1906)
 
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To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.

[Sich mit Wenigem begnügen ist schwer, sich mit Vielem begnügen noch schwerer.]

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) Austrian writer
Aphorisms [Aphorismen], No. 89 (1880) [tr. Wister (1883)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

To be satisfied with little is hard, to be satisfied with a lot is impossible.
[tr. Scrase/Mieder (1994)]
 
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A handfull of good life is better then a bushell of learning.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum, or Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, &c. (compiler), # 3 (1640 ed.)
    (Source)
 
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Human happiness konsists in having what yu want, and wanting what yu hav.

[Human happiness consists in having what you want, and wanting what you have.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist, aphorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, ch. 131 “Affurisms: Plum Pits (1)” (1874)
    (Source)
 
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The better part of happiness is to wish to be what you are.

Desiderius Erasmus (1465-1536) Dutch humanist philosopher and scholar
The Praise of Folly, ch. 10 (1509) [tr. Hudson (1941)]
 
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His was a life which lacked, perhaps, the sublimer emotions which raised Man to the level of the gods, but it was undeniably an extremely happy one. He never experienced the thrill of ambition fulfilled, but, on the other hand, he never knew the agony of ambition frustrated. His name, when he died, would not live for ever in England’s annals; he was spared the pain of worrying about this by the fact that he had no desire to live for ever in England’s annals. He was possibly as nearly contented a human being can be in this century of alarms and excursions.

P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) Anglo-American humorist, playwright and lyricist [Pelham Grenville Wodehouse]
Something Fresh (1915)
 
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IAGO: Poor and content is rich, and rich enough;
But riches fineless is as poor as winter
To him that ever fears he shall be poor.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Othello, Act 3, sc. 3, l. 202ff (3.3.202-204) (1603)
    (Source)
 
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Let everyone, then, do something, according to the measure of his capacities. To have no regular work, no set sphere of activity — what a miserable thing it is! How often long travels undertaken for pleasure make a man downright unhappy; because the absence of anything that can be called occupation forces him, as it were, out of his right element. Effort, struggles with difficulties! that is as natural to a man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. To have all his wants satisfied is something intolerable — the feeling of stagnation which comes from pleasures that last too long. To overcome difficulties is to experience the full delight of existence.

[Inzwischen treibe jeder etwas, nach Maßgabe seiner Fähigkeiten. Denn wie nachteilig der Mangel an planmäßiger Tätigkeit, an irgend einer Arbeit, auf uns wirke, merkt man auf langen Vergnügungsreisen, als wo man, dann und wann, sich recht unglücklich fühlt; weil man, ohne eigentliche Beschäftigung, gleichsam aus seinem natürlichen Elemente gerissen ist. Sich zu mühen und mit dem Widerstande zu kämpfen ist dem Menschen Bedürfnis, wie dem Maulwurf das Graben. Der Stillstand, den die Allgenugsamkeit eines bleibenden Genusses herbeiführte, wäre ihm unerträglich. Hindernisse überwinden ist der Vollgenuß seines Daseins.]

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” ch. 5 “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” § 2.17 (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890)]
    (Source)

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

Nevertheless, everyone should do something according to the measure of his abilities. For on long pleasure-trips we see how pernicious is the effect on us of not having any systematic activity or work. On such trips we feel positively unhappy because we are without any proper occupation and are, so to speak, torn from our natural element. Effort, trouble, and struggle with opposition are as necessary to man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. The stagnation that results from being wholly contented with a lasting pleasure would be for him intolerable. The full pleasure of his existence is in overcoming obstacles.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

 
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