Archive for July 22nd, 2014

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Retirement by Charles Cotton

Stanzes Irreguliers, to Mr. Izaak Walton.

Farewell, thou busy world! and may
We never meet again!
Here I can eat, and sleep, and pray,
And do more good in one short day
Than he who his whole age out-wears
Upon the most conspicuous theatres,
Where nought but vanity and vice appears.

Good God! how sweet are all things here!
How beautiful the fields appear!
How cleanly do we feed and lie!
Lord! what good hours do we keep!
How quietly we sleep!
What peace, what unanimity!
How innocent from the lewd fashion
Is all our business, all our recreation!

Oh, how happy here’s our leisure!
Oh, how innocent our pleasure!
Oh, ye vallies, Oh ye mountains!
Oh, ye groves, and crystal fountains,
How I love at liberty,
By turns, to come and visit ye!

Dear solitude, the soul’s best friend,
That man, acquainted with himself dost make,
And all his Maker’s wonders t’intend:
With thee I here converse at will,
And would be glad to do so still,
For it is thou, alone, that keep’st the soul awake.

How calm and quiet a delight
Is it, alone,
To read, and meditate, and write,
By none offended, and offending none?
To walk, ride, sit, or sleep at one’s own ease!
And, pleasing a man’s self, none other to displease.

O my beloved nymph, fair Dove;
Princess of rivers, how I love
Upon thy flow’ry banks to lie;
And view thy silver stream,
When gilded by a summer’s beam!
And in it, all thy wanton fry,
Playing at liberty:
And, with my angle, upon them
The all of treachery
I ever learnt, industriously to try.

Such streams Rome’s yellow Tyber cannot show,
The Iberian Tagus, or Ligurian Po;
The Maese, the Danube, and the Rhine,
Are puddle-water all, compar’d with thine:
And Loire’s pure streams yet too polluted are
With thine, much purer, to compare:
The rapid Garonne, and the winding Seine,
Are both too mean,
Beloved Dove, with thee
To vie priority;
Nay, Tame and Isis, when conjoin’d submit,
And lay their trophies at thy silver feet.

O my beloved rocks! that rise
To awe the earth and brave the skies,
From some aspiring mountain’s crown,
How dearly do I love,
Giddy with pleasure, to look down;
And, from the vales, to view the noble heights above!
O my beloved caves! from dog-star’s heat
And all anxieties, my safe retreat:
What safety, privacy, what true delight,
In the artificial night,
Your gloomy entrails make,
Have I taken, do I take!
How oft when grief has made me fly,
To hide me from society
Ev’n of my dearest friends, have I,
In your recesses’ friendly shade,
All my sorrows open laid,
And my most secret woes intrusted to your privacy!

Lord! would men let me alone,
What an over-happy one
Should I think myself to be;
Might I, in this desert place,
(Which most men in discourse disgrace,)
Live but undisturb’d and free!
Here, in this despis’d recess,
Would I, maugre winter’s cold,
And the summer’s worst excess,
Try to live-out to sixty full years old;
And, all the while,
Without an envious eye
On any thriving under fortune’s smile,
Contented live, and, then, contented die.

From: Walton, Izaak, Cotton, Charles and Hawkins, John, The Complete Angler, or Contemplative Man’s Recreation: Being a Discourse on Rivers, Fish-Ponds, Fish, and Fishing. In Two Parts: The First Written by Mr. Izaak Walton, the Second by Charles Cotton, Esq. with the Lives of the Authors: And Notes, Historical, Supplementary, and Explanatory, by Sir John Hawkins, Knt. and the Present Editor, 1815, Samuel Bagster: London, pp. 399-401.

Date: 1676

By: Charles Cotton (1630-1687)