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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Where to Find True Joy

By Alfred the Great (849–899)

From ‘Boethius’

From Works of Alfred the Great, Jubilee Edition (Oxford and Cambridge, 1852)

OH! it is a fault of weight,

Let him think it out who will,

And a danger passing great

Which can thus allure to ill

Careworn men from the rightway,

Swiftly ever led astray.

Will ye seek within the wood

Red gold on the green trees tall?

None, I wot, is wise that could,

For it grows not there at all:

Neither in wine-gardens green

Seek they gems of glittering sheen.

Would ye on some hill-top set,

When ye list to catch a trout,

Or a carp, your fishing-net?

Men, methinks, have long found out

That it would be foolish fare,

For they know they are not there.

In the salt sea can ye find,

When ye list to start an hunt,

With your hounds, the hart or hind?

It will sooner be your wont

In the woods to look, I wot,

Than in seas where they are not.

Is it wonderful to know

That for crystals red or white

One must to the sea-beach go,

Or for other colors bright,

Seeking by the river’s side

Or the shore at ebb of tide?

Likewise, men are well aware

Where to look for river-fish;

And all other worldly ware

Where to seek them when they wish;

Wisely careful men will know

Year by year to find them so.

But of all things ’tis most sad

That they foolish are so blind,

So besotted and so mad,

That they cannot surely find

Where the ever-good is nigh

And true pleasures hidden lie.

Therefore, never is their strife

After those true joys to spur;

In this lean and little life

They, half-witted, deeply err

Seeking here their bliss to gain,

That is God Himself in vain.

Ah! I know not in my thought

How enough to blame their sin,

None so clearly as I ought

Can I show their fault within;

For, more bad and vain are they

And more sad than I can say.

All their hope is to acquire

Worship goods and worldly weal;

When they have their mind’s desire,

Then such witless Joy they feel,

That in folly they believe

Those True Joys they then receive.