Please help me to summarize these passages because I'm having a hard time paraphrasing them. How happy is he born and taughtThat serveth not another's will;Whose armour is his honest thoughtAnd...

Please help me to summarize these passages because I'm having a hard time paraphrasing them.


How happy is he born and taught
That serveth not another's will;
Whose armour is his honest thoughtAnd simple truth his utmost skill!-Sir Henry Wotton

 

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave
Await like the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
-Thomas Gray


Ill fares the land to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.
-Oliver Goldsmith

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases;
It will never pass into nothingness.
-John Keats

Expert Answers
dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first passage, by Henry Wotton, is a celebration of independence and self-reliance. Wotton is saying that the man who is taught from birth not to live under the control of others, but to rely on his own instincts, guided by "honest thought" and "simple truth," is a happy man indeed.

The second passage, by Thomas Gray, addresses the futility of pursuing glory and power, and other earthly things. In the end, the fate of every individual is the same, be they rich or poor, powerful or weak. The "inevitable hour" that awaits every man is death.

The theme of the third passage, by Oliver Goldsmith, is similar to that in the passage by Thomas Gray. Taken from the long poem "The Deserted Village," it too highlights the futility of pursuing earthly things, describing a barren land where "wealth accumulates but men decay." In short, it is foolish to seek earthly riches, because all men eventually die, and must leave their accumulated wealth behind.

The last passage, by John Keats, focuses on an element that is lasting, in contrast to the things addressed in the previous passage. Keats says that beauty, unlike wealth and power, is everlasting, and "will never pass into nothingness."

Interestingly, Thomas Gray also speaks of beauty, but negatively, as part and parcel of that which will inevitably "lead but to the grave." The two writers are speaking of a different kind of beauty. Gray is describing an artificial beauty, which, along with heraldry, wealth, and power, will not bring lasting fulfillment. Keats, on the other hand, is speaking of natural beauty, and how the experience of it enriches the soul in a way that lasts forever.