Character of a Happy Life

by SIR HENRY WOTTON (1568-1639)

How happy is he born and taught
That serveth not another’s will;
Whose armour is his honest thought,
And simple truth his utmost skill!
Whose passions not his masters are;
Whose soul is still prepared for death,
Untied unto the world by care
Of public fame or private breath;
Who envies none that chance doth raise,
Nor vice; who never understood
How deepest wounds are giv’n by praise;
Nor rules of state, but rules of good;
Who hath his life from rumours freed;
Whose conscience is his strong retreat;
Whose state can neither flatterers feed,
Nor ruin make oppressors great.
Who God doth late and early pray
More of His grace than gifts to lend;
And entertains the harmless day
With a religious book or friend.
This man is freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise, or fear to fall;
Lord of himself, though not of lands;
And having nothing, yet hath all.

Born in 1568 in Kent, England, Sir Henry Wotton was the only child of Thomas Wotton and his second wife, Eleanor. For the greater part of his youth, he was ‘home-schooled’ by his mother with the aid of a tutor and sent at age 16 to New College, Oxford where he met John Donne. The two men became lifelong friends. Wotton later finished his education at Queen’s College, obtaining his degree in 1588. Afterwards, he embarked on a 7-year tour of Europe.

Sir Henry Wotton Contemporaries
John Donne
Sir Walter Raleigh
Ben Jonson
Robert Herrick

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