Here is a sonnet from Joachim du Bellay which is a reflection on the satisfactions of a comfortable old age. I suspect it was written in a yearning mood before he reached that stage of life when you can kick back, relax and stop taking things seriously. As we know from many of his poems, du Bellay was very frustrated by the years he spent in Rome, away from his homeland, his family and friends and occupied in futile diplomacy. Perhaps this poem is his wish for a better life one day.
Ô qu’heureux est celuy qui peult passer son aage
Entre pareils à soy ! et qui sans fiction,
Sans crainte, sans envie et sans ambition,
Règne paisiblement en son pauvre mesnage !
Le misérable soing d’acquérir davantage
Ne tyrannise point sa libre affection,
Et son plus grand désir, désir sans passion,
Ne s’estend plus avant que son propre héritage.
Il ne s’empesche point des affaires d’autry,
Son principal espoir ne dépend que de luy,
Il est sa cour, son roy, sa faveur et son maistre.
Il ne mange son bien en pais étranger,
Il ne met pour autry sa personne en danger,
Et plus riche qu’il est ne voudroit jamais estre.
Joachim du Bellay.
The first stanza depict the happiness of the person who can spend his final years among his family with no need for fear, envy or ambition. He is in peace, the master of his own house. (This assumes of course that he is relatively prosperous and was able to provide for his old age, which would have been far from the norm in the sixteenth century.)
The second stanza declares him liberated from the cares of needing to earn and acquire wealth; his only material concerns are to ensure his legacy.
The third and fourth stanzas praise the freedom of the old person to be totally self-reliant and his own master – he doesn’t have to travel to another country, he doesn’t have to risk his life for others and he has no need to seek more riches. Surely these are references to the poet’s own situation, in the service of others in a foreign country. He can’t wait to finish his tour of duty, go home and retire.
The Poetry Dude