Even in a palace life may be led well!
So spake the imperial sage, purest of men,
Marcus Aurelius. But the stifling den
of common life, where, crowded up, pell-mell,
Our freedom for a little bread we sell,
And drudge under some foolish master's ken,
Who rates us if we peer outside our pen,--
Matched with a palace, is not this hell?
Even in a palace! On this truth sincere
Who spoke these words, no shadow ever came;
And when my ill-schooled spirit is aflame
Some nobler, ampler stage of life to win,
I'll stop, and say, "There were no succor here!
The aids to noble life are all within."
This difficult poem by Matthew Arnold, who is one of my favorite poets, that for the most part I can rarely understand, but when I do, I just love his mind.
In this poem he speaks about a quote by Marcus Aurelius, another great Greek philosopher from the past who you simply must read if you haven't. In this poem by Arnold he refers to him as imperial sage, purest of men, who no shadow ever came, which is pretty high praise for a mortal man. But Aurelius, whom I first became acquainted with by the encouragement of the Puritans who all read his thought, certainly had an enlightened mind and if he had become a Christian, the world can only imagine how he may have moved it. In this quote, Aurelius implies that wealth is an equal disadvantage for the soul, with its prosperity, gluttony and temptations. Arnold concludes with the point of the quote-- the Battle is within, and there we will find the answers to happiness, not in wealth or poverty. A tried and true theme for all religions and philosophies. But so well put in this poem.
Picture taken from the internet.