The Wants of Man

Original Text: 
Poems of Religion and Society (Auburn: Derby and Miller, 1850): 15-23. Internet Archive
Man wants but little here below,
1Nor wants that little long. -- Goldsmith's Hermit
I.
3    Nor wants that little long."
4'Tis not with ME exactly so;
5    But 'tis so in the song.
6MY wants are many, and if told
7    Would muster many a score;
8And were each wish a mint of gold,
9    I still should long for more.
II.
10What first I want is daily bread,
12And all the realms of nature spread
13    Before me when I dine.
14Four courses scarcely can provide
15    My appetite to quell;
16With four choice cooks from France, beside,
17    To dress my dinner well.
III.
18What next I want, at heavy cost,
19    Is elegant attire;--
20Black sable furs, for winter's frost,
21    And silks for summer's fire,
22And Cashmere shawls, and Brussels lace
23    My bosom's front to deck,
24And diamond rings my hands to grace,
25    And rubies for my neck.
IV.
26And then I want a mansion fair,
27    A dwelling house, in style,
28Four stories high, for wholesome air--
29    A massive marble pile;
30With halls for banquets and balls,
31    All furnished rich and fine;
32With stabled studs in fifty stalls,
33    And cellars for my wine.
V.
34I want a garden and a park,
35    My dwelling to surround--
36A thousand acres (bless the mark),
37    With walls encompassed round--
38Where flocks may range and herds may low,
39    And kids and lambkins play,
40And flowers and fruits commingled grow,
41    All Eden to display.
VI.
42I want, when summer's foliage falls,
43    And autumn strips the trees,
44A house within the city's walls,
45    For comfort and for ease.
46But here, as space is somewhat scant,
47    And acres somewhat rare,
48My house in town I only want
49    To occupy-- --a square.
VII.
50I want a steward, butler, cooks;
51    A coachman, footman, grooms,
52A library of well-bound books,
53    And picture-garnished rooms;
55    The matron of the chair;
VIII.
58I want a cabinet profuse
59    Of medals, coins, and gems;
60A printing press, for private use,
62And plants, and minerals, and shells;
63    Worms, insects, fishes, birds;
64And every beast on earth that dwells,
65    In solitude or herds.
IX.
66I want a board of burnished plate,
67    Of silver and of gold;
68Tureens of twenty pounds in weight,
69    With sculpture's richest mould;
70Plateaus, with chandeliers and lamps,
71    Plates, dishes--all the same;
72And porcelain vases, with the stamps
73    Of Sevres, Angouleme.
X.
74And maples, of fair glossy stain,
75    Must form my chamber doors,
77    Must cover all my floors;
78My walls, with tapestry bedeck'd,
79    Must never be outdone;
80And damask curtains must protect
81    Their colors from the sun.
XI.
82And mirrors of the largest pane
83    From Venice must be brought;
84And sandal-wood, and bamboo cane,
85    For chairs and tables bought;
86On all the mantel-pieces, clocks
87    Of thrice-gilt bronze must stand,
88And screens of ebony and box
89    Invite the stranger's hand.
XII.
90I want (who does not want?) a wife,
91    Affectionate and fair,
92To solace all the woes of life,
93    And all its joys to share;
94Of temper sweet, of yielding will,
95    Of firm, yet placid mind,
96With all my faults to love me still,
97    With sentiment refin'd.
XIII.
98And as Time's car incessant runs,
99    And Fortune fills my store,
100I want of daughters and of sons
101    From eight to half a score.
102I want (alas! can mortal dare
103    Such bliss on earth to crave?)
104That all the girls be chaste and fair--
105    The boys all wise and brave.
XIV.
106And when my bosom's darling sings,
107    With melody divine,
108A pedal harp of many strings
109    Must with her voice combine.
110A piano, exquisitely wrought,
111    Must open stand, apart,
112That all my daughters may be taught
113    To win the stranger's heart.
XV.
114My wife and daughters will desire
115    Refreshment from perfumes,
116Cosmetics for the skin require,
117    And artificial blooms.
118The civit fragrance shall dispense,
119    And treasur'd sweets return;
120Cologne revive the flagging sense,
121    And smoking amber burn.
XVI.
122And when at night my weary head
123    Begins to droop and dose,
124A southern chamber holds my bed,
125    For nature's soft repose;
126With blankets, counterpanes, and sheet,
127    Mattrass, and bed of down,
128And comfortable for my feet,
129    And pillows for my crown.
XVII.
130I want a warm and faithful friend,
131    To cheer the adverse hour,
132Who ne'er to flatter will descend,
133    Nor bend the knee to power;
134A friend to chide me when I'm wrong,
135    My inmost soul to see;
136And that my friendship prove as strong
137    For him, as his for me.
XVIII.
138I want a kind and tender heart,
139    For others wants to feel;
140A soul secure from Fortune's dart,
141    And bosom arm'd with steel;
142To bear divine chastisement's rod.
143    And mingling in my plan,
144Submission to the will of God,
145    With charity to man.
XIX.
146I want a keen, observing eye,
147    An ever-listening ear,
148The truth through all disguise to spy,
149    And wisdom's voice to hear;
150A tongue, to speak at virtue's need,
151    In Heaven's sublimest strain;
152And lips, the cause of man to plead,
153    And never plead in vain.
XX.
154I want uninterrupted health,
155    Throughout my long career,
156And streams of never-failing wealth,
157    To scatter far and near;
158The destitute to clothe and feed,
159    Free bounty to bestow;
160Supply the helpless orphan's need,
161    And soothe the widow's woe.
XXI.
162I want the genius to conceive,
163    The talents to unfold,
164Designs, the vicious to retrieve,
165    The virtuous to uphold;
166Inventive power, combining skill,
167    A persevering soul,
168Of human hearts to mould the will,
169    And reach from pole to pole.
XXII.
170I want the seals of power and place,
171    The ensigns of command;
172Charged by the people's unbought grace
173    To rule my native land.
174Nor crown nor sceptre would I ask
175    But from my country's will,
176By day, by night, to ply the task
177    Her cup of bliss to fill.
XXIII.
178I want the voice of honest praise
179    To follow me behind,
180And to be thought in future days
181    The friend of human kind;
182That after ages, as they rise,
183    Exulting may proclaim,
184In choral union to the skies,
185    Their blessings on my name.
XXIV.
186These are the wants of mortal man;
187    I cannot want them long,
188For life itself is but a span,
189    And earthly bliss a song.
190My last great want, absorbing all,
191    Is, when beneath the sod,
192And summoned to my final call,
193    The mercy of my God.
XXV.
194And oh! while circles in my veins
195    Of life the purple stream,
196And yet a fragment small remains
197    Of nature's transient dream,
198My soul, in humble hope unscar'd,
199    Forget not thou to pray,
200That this thy WANT may be prepared
201    To meet the Judgment Day.

Notes

2] "It was written under those circumstances: --General Ogle informed Mr. Adams that several young ladies in his district had requested him to procure Mr. A.'s autograph for them. In accordance with this request, Mr. Adams wrote the following beautiful poem upon "The Wants of Man," each stanza upon a sheet of note paper." (Note in 1850 edition.)
Goldsmith's Hermit: from Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), a ballad spoken by a hermit in the story. Back to Line
11] canvas backs: white pigeons with a black head. Back to Line
54] Corregio's: Corregios, in original. Quincy refers to the night-piece by Antonio Allegri da Correggio (1489-1534), in which Magdalen lies on the ground in a wilderness reading a book. Back to Line
56] Guido: Guido Reni (1575-1642), an Italian painter. Back to Line
57] Claudes: Claude Gellée (1600-82), a French landscape painter. Back to Line
61] EMS: units of type used to measure the total printed text in a line. Back to Line
76] Wilton, Wiltshire, renouned for its carpet weaving. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire / Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012
Rhyme: 
Form: