Thursday, May 30, 2013


By None Offended, and Offending None

Charles Cotton (1630-1687), "The Retirement. Stanzes Irreguliers. To Mr. Isaak Walton," in his Poems on Several Occasions (London: Printed for Tho. Bassett..., 1689), pp. 133-139:
  Farewell thou busie World, and may
            We never meet again:
  Here I can eat, and sleep, and pray,
  And doe more good in one short day,
  Than he who his whole Age out-wears
Upon the most conspicuous Theatres,
Where nought but Vice and Vanity do reign.

Good God! how sweet are all things here!
How beautifull 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 leud Fashion,
Is all our bus'ness, all our Conversation!

    Oh how happy here's our leisure!
    Oh how innocent our pleasure!
    Oh ye Vallies, oh ye Mountains,
    Oh ye Groves and Chrystall Fountains,
      How I love at liberty
    By turn to come and visit ye!

    O Solitude, the Soul's best Friend,
  That Man acquainted with himself dost make,
  And all his Maker's Wonders to 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
            It is 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!

  Oh 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 learn'd to practise and to try!

Such streams Rome's yellow Tiber cannot show,
Th' Iberian Tagus, nor Ligurian Po;
  The Meuse, 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 conjoyn'd, submit,
And lay their Trophies at thy Silver Feet.

  Oh 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!

Oh my beloved Caves! from Dog-star heats,
And hotter Persecution safe Retreats,
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,
    Even of my dearest Friends, have I
      In your recesses friendly shade
      All my sorrows open laid,
And my most secret woes entrusted to your privacy!

  Lord! would men let me alone,
  What an over-happy one
  Should I think my self to be,
  Might I in this desart place,
Which most men by their voice 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.

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