Edward de Vere – 17th Earl of Oxford
from an engraving by J. Brown after G.P. Harding 1575
In Praise of a Contented Mind
My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such perfect joy therein I find
That it excels all other bliss
That world affords or grows by kind.
Though much I want which most men have,
Yet still my mind forbids to crave.
No princely pomp, no wealthy store,
No force to win the victory,
No wily wit to salve a sore,
No shape to feed each gazing eye;
To none of these I yield as thrall.
For why my mind doth serve for all.
I see how plenty suffers oft,
How hasty climbers soon do fall;
I see that those that are aloft
Mishap doth threaten most of all;
They get with toil, they keep with fear.
Such cares my mind could never bear.
Content I live, this is my stay;
I seek no more than may suffice;
I press to bear no haughty sway;
Look what I lack my mind supplies;
Lo, thus I triumph like a king,
Content with that my mind doth bring.
Some have too much, yet still do crave;
I little have, and seek no more.
They are but poor, though much they have,
And I am rich with little store.
They poor, I rich; they beg, I give;
They lack, I leave; they pine, I live.
I laugh not at another’s loss;
I grudge not at another’s gain;
No worldly waves my mind can toss;
My state at one doth still remain.
I fear no foe, nor fawning friend;
I loathe not life, nor dread my end.
Some weigh their pleasure by their lust,
Their wisdom by their rage of will,
Their treasure is their only trust;
And cloaked craft their store of skill.
But all the pleasure that I find
Is to maintain a quiet mind.
My wealth is health and perfect ease;
My conscience clear my chief defense;
I neither seek by bribes to please,
Nor by deceit to breed offense.
Thus do I live, thus will I die.
Would all did so as well as I!
Last night I was adding some new books to my shelves and decided to look at my old copy of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. I opened it up, turned a few pages and stumbled on to In Praise of a Contented Mind. It’s anonymous poem most commonly attributed to Edward Dyer but according to Norton, it was possibly written by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (painting above). According to the Oxfordian Theory, some believe that Edward de Vere was the poet who’s pseudonym was Shakespeare. I hold the opinion that Shakespeare was most likely a group of nobles who collaborated together to write under the pseudonym of Shakespeare because their status as nobles prevented their official authorship.
In 1588 William Byrd set the poem to music in Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs of Sadness and Piety, as “My Mind to me a Kingdom is.” This version (below) is attributed to Sir Edward Dyer and includes some modification to the original prose.
My Mind to me a Kingdom is
My minde to me a kingdome is,
such perfect joy therin I find,
That it excells all other blisse,
which God or Nature hath assignâ€™d.
Though much I want, that most would have,
yet still my mind forbids to crave.
No princely port nor welthie store,
no force to winne a victorie,
no wyly wit to salve a sore,
no shape to winne a loving eye:
to none of these I yeld as thrall,
for why my minde despise them all.
I see that plentie surfeits oft,
and hastie clymbers soonest fall:
I see that such as are a loft,
mishap doth threaten most of all:
these get with toyle and keepe with feare,
such cares my minde can never beare.
I presse to beare no haughtie sway,
I wish no more then may suffice:
I doe no more than well I may,
look what I want my minde supplies,
loe thus I triumph like a King,
my minde content with any thing.
I laugh not at anothers losse,
nor grudge not at anothers gaine:
no worldly waves my minde can tosse,
I brooke that is anothers bane:
I feare no foe nor fawne on friend,
I loth not lyfe nor dread mine end.
My wealth is health and perfect ease,
and conscience cleere my chiefe defence,
I never seeke by brybes to please,
nor by desert to give offence:
thus doe I live, thus will I dye,
would all did so as well as I.
The score was mass produced as a broadside where it remained popular for over 100 more years. According to google, this posting is between the 15th and 30th mention of this poem on the internets.
click below to download a PDF of the score:
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