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This poem, which Howard helpfully entitled "How No Age is Content," features the ruminations of an elderly man as he lies on his bed pondering his wasted condition and the aches and pains of his life. However, as he begins to think about his state, he reflects that there is something in man that is never able to be truly happy with what he has, as he is always looking and seeking the next thing rather than being able to be content with what he has. He uses the three states of child, young man and old man to prove his case:
I saw the little boy in thought how oft that he
Did wish of God to scape the rod, a tall young man to be.
The young man eke that feels his bones with pains opprest,
How he would be a rich old man, to live and lie at rest.
The rich old man that sees his end draw on so sore,
How he would be a boy again, to live so much the more.
There is something in the human condition that makes us fundamentally unable to be happy with what we have, as we always think that the next stage of our life will be better than the one before. It is this thought that makes the speaker of this poem reflect that actually, out of all the ages of man, it is the child that is happiest, because he is free from responsibility and the aches and pains that life brings later on. The speaker ends the poem by reflecting that he must tell children this truth:
...their time most happy is,
If, to their time, they reason had, to know the truth of this.
The message of the poem is that children enjoy the happiest stage of life, if they had but the realisation to understand and see this and were able to ignore their natural human inclination to think that their next stage of life will be better than their present stage.
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