The Old Man's Wish

Original Text: 
The Old Mans Wish (London: N. T., 1684). Wing P2914B. Harvard University Library.
1If I live to grow old
2   (for I find I go down),
3Let this be my fate:
5Let me have a warm house
6   with a stone at the gate,
7And a cleanly young girl
8   to rub my bald pate.
9May I govern my passion
11And grow wiser and better
12   as my strength wears away
13Without gout or stone,
15By a gentle decay.
16In a countery town
17   by a murmuring brook,
18The ocean at distance
19   on which I may look,
20With a spacious plain
22And an easie pag nag
24May I govern my passion
25   with an absolute sway,
26And grow wiser and better
27   as my strength wears away
28Without gout or stone,
29   by a gentle decay,
30By a gentle decay.
31With a pudding on Sunday,
33And remnants of Latin
34   to puzzle the vicar,
35With a hidden reserve
36   of Burgundy wine,
37To drink the King's health
38   as oft as I dine.
39May I govern my passion
40   with an absolute sway,
41And grow wiser and better
42   as my strength wears away
43Without gout or stone,
44   by a gentle decay,
45By a gentle decay.
46With Petrarch and Horace,
47   and one or two more
48Of the best wits that lived
49   in the ages before;
50With a dish of roast mutton,
52And clean (though coarse) linen
53   at every meal.
54May I govern my passion
55   with an absolute sway,
56And grow wiser and better
57   as my strength wears away
58Without gout or stone,
59   by a gentle decay,
60By a gentle decay.
61With a courage undaunted
62   may I pass my last day,
63And when I am dead,
64   may the better sort say,
65In the morning when sober,
67He's gone and has left
68   not behind him his fellow:
69May I govern my passion
70   with an absolute sway,
71And grow wiser and better
72   as my strength wears away
73Without gout or stone,
74   by a gentle decay,
75By a gentle decay.


4] countery: country. Back to Line
10] sway: rule. Back to Line
14] gout: "A specific constitutional disease occurring in paroxysms, usually hereditary and in male subjects; characterized by painful inflammation of the smaller joints, esp. that of the great toe, and the deposition of sodium urate in the form of chalk-stones; it often spreads to the larger joints and the internal organs" (OED, n. 1, 1). stone: very painful deposit of hard, gravelly deposits made by uric acid in the kidneys or bladder. Back to Line
21] stile: gate. Back to Line
23] pag nag: easy-riding horse. Back to Line
32] humming: strong and frothy. Back to Line
51] teal: small duck. Back to Line
66] mellow: tipsy, "in his cups." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: