"Too Low For Envy, For Contempt Too High"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "A Vote" is the poetic statement of a youth who feels that books and a simple life are preferable to the world and its various activities. It is significant to note, however, that Cowley was not allowed to enjoy an uncomplicated introspective life; serving the Royal Family during England's Civil War and Restoration, he found himself in and out of favor, arrested, exiled, and a victim of intrigues. In addition, fame had been thrust upon him, for his poetry was hailed as a model of perfection in style and form. Nearing the end of an active and public life, Cowley recalls "A Vote" in the essay "Of My Selfe" as "an Ode, which I made when I was but thirteen years old." In spite of the world's glories, the natural bent of his soul has been away from them, and he reaffirms his youthful ideal:

This only grant me, that my means may lye
Too low for Envy, for Contempt too high.
Some Honor I would have
Not from great deeds, but good alone.
The unknown are better than ill known.
Rumour can ope' the Grave,
Acquaintance I would have, but when't depends
Not on the number, but the choice of Friends.