The Wants of Man
by John Quincy Adams (1841)
“MAN wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long.”
‘Tis not with me exactly so;
But ’tis so in the song.
My wants are many and, if told,
Would muster many a score;
And were each wish a mint of gold,
I still should long for more.
What first I want is daily bread —
And canvas-backs, — and wine —
And all the realms of nature spread
Before me, when I dine.
Four courses scarcely can provide
My appetite to quell;
With four choice cooks from France beside,
To dress my dinner well.
What next I want, at princely cost,
Is elegant attire :
Black sable furs for winter’s frost,
And silks for summer’s fire,
And Cashmere shawls, and Brussels lace
My bosom’s front to deck, —
And diamond rings my hands to grace,
And rubies for my neck.
I want (who does not want?) a wife, —
Affectionate and fair;
To solace all the woes of life,
And all its joys to share.
Of temper sweet, of yielding will,
Of firm, yet placid mind, —
With all my faults to love me still
With sentiment refined.
And as Time’s car incessant runs,
And Fortune fills my store,
I want of daughters and of sons
From eight to half a score.
I want (alas! can mortal dare
Such bliss on earth to crave?)
That all the girls be chaste and fair, —
The boys all wise and brave.
I want a warm and faithful friend,
To cheer the adverse hour,
Who ne’er to flatter will descend,
Nor bend the knee to power, —
A friend to chide me when I’m wrong,
My inmost soul to see;
And that my friendship prove as strong
For him as his for me.
I want the seals of power and place,
The ensigns of command;
Charged by the People’s unbought grace
To rule my native land.
Nor crown nor sceptre would I ask
But from my country’s will,
By day, by night, to ply the task
Her cup of bliss to fill.
I want the voice of honest praise
To follow me behind,
And to be thought in future days
The friend of human-kind,
That after ages, as they rise,
Exulting may proclaim
In choral union to the skies
Their blessings on my name.
These are the Wants of mortal Man, —
I cannot want them long,
For life itself is but a span,
And earthly bliss — a song.
My last great Want — absorbing all —
Is, when beneath the sod,
And summoned to my final call,
The Mercy of my God.