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The discussion and analysis presented after these translated stanzas is our opinion.  Read the translations for yourself and our analysis, but also seek out varied sources and come to your own conclusions.


Auden & Taylor:

A small hut of one's own is better,
A man is his master at home:
A couple of goats and a corded roof
Still are better than begging. 


36. Better a house, | though a hut it be,
A man is master at home;
A pair of goats | and a patched-up roof
Are better far than begging.

Bellow's Note:  The manuscript has "little" in place of "a hut" in line I, but this involves an error in the initial-rhymes, and the emendation has been generally accepted.


One's own house is best, though small it may be;
each man is master at home;
though he have but two goats and a bark-thatched hut
'tis better than craving a boon.


One’s home is better though it be small.
To each, home is hall.
Though he owns but two goats,
and a thatched roof, it is better than begging.


One's home is best, though hut it be:
there a man is master and lord;
Though but two goats thine and a thatched roof,
'tis far better than beg.


Though it be little, better to live
in a house you hold as your own;
with just two goats, thin thatch for your roof,
you're better off than begging.


One’s own house is best,
small though it be;
at home is every one his own master.
Though he but two goats possess,
and a straw-thatched cot,
even that is better than begging.


Stanza 36 and 37 touch on similar themes and share the same first two lines.

Lines 1 and 2 express the idea that it is good to have your own house, regardless of how small or humble it may be.  The reason given in the majority of the translations, is because when you have a home, you are the master there.  Chisholm goes a little bit different direction by saying that "home is hall."  This seems like just a somewhat more subtle way of getting at the "master of the home" idea, because if your home is your hall...then you are the Lord of the Hall.  Terry steers away from the concept of you being the master at home, and simply says it is good to have a home to "hold as your own."  My favorite translation of the first two lines is Thorpe's. 

One’s own house is best, small though it be;
at home is every one his own master.

Describing being one's "own master" at your "own house," gets right to the heart of the wisdom presented in this stanza.  At your work, or in public, or as a guest at another's house you are not fully free.  Even more so if you don't have a place of your own to live, or if you live in the home of another.  But, in your own home...whether it's a little hut or a big mansion...you are the master of your domain.  You are your own master.

Lines 3 and 4 simply go a bit further regarding the idea that no matter how modest your house, it is best to have a place to call your own.  Clearly, having just two goats would be fairly meager belongings.  And having a patched up roof, or a roof with thin thatch, or bark thatch roof, or a corded roof would be very crude or rustic.  But even this sparse house and meager belonging is better than begging, or asking for hand-outs from others.  Only Thorpe refers to a straw cot or bed, rather than a straw roof.  But, this difference does not affect the meaning in any real way.

We all strive for comfort and happiness.  Part of that effort involves working hard in order to afford a place to live.  This stanza reminds me of when my wife and I purchased our first home.  Our "starter home" as people call it.  It was an older home, a little rough around the edges, and not really in the perfect neighborhood.  But, it was our home.  We had great pride in having a place of our own in which to build a life.  To have more room for our growing family we moved about 5 years later.  But, I still remember how amazing it felt to move into that first home, meager though it might have been by some people's standards.

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