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< Theme 2. Advice on how to Live (iii) >

Robert Greene

 Greenes Farewell to Folly (1591, 31)  

Richard Greene

Woodcut of Robert Greene writing 'suited in death's livery' ie in his winding sheet
from John Dickensen's Greene in conceipt (1598) - Wikipedia  

Sweet are the thoughts that savour of content; 
The quiet mind is richer than a crown; 
Sweet are the nights in careless slumber spent; 
The poor estate scorns fortune's angry frown: 
Such sweet content, such minds, such sleep, such bliss, 
Beggars enjoy, when princes oft do miss. 

The homely house that harbours quiet rest; 
The cottage that affords no pride nor care; 
The mean that 'grees with country music best; 
The sweet consort of mirth and music's fare; 
Obscurèd life sets down a type of bliss: 
A mind content both crown and kingdom is.


Whether poets are qualified to give us advice on how to live is debatable. With few exceptions, they don't generally seem to have been very successful in applying the advice they give to their own particular circumstances. In fact, what advice they give seems to be mainly rooted in their own personal failures, in summary a sort of 'don't do what I did' moral tale. Particularly notable in this respect is Robert Greene (c1558-1592), who by all accounts was one of the very rogues he himself warned us against in his 'coney-catching' pamphlets. ('Coneys' were rabbits in the country, but the term was also used for the human targets of the sharp practices of London rogues during the late sixteenth century.) Greene himself specifically rejected the rural contentment that he could have had with his wife in the country, whose money he instead purloined and spent in London, and then regretted having purloined and spent it. Still, we can forgive a man a great deal if we do not know his particular circumstances, and Greene raised regretting bad behaviour to an art form. His pamphlet Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance is a good if unedifying example. Or perhaps it was just a way to make money out of his pretended repentance.

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