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Lest (for so impious a pride) a worse
Than was Arachne's fate or Midas' curse,
Posterity inflicts upon your fames,
For vent'ring to approach too near his flames,
Whose all commanding muse disdains to be
Equall'd by any, in all poesy.
As the presumptuous son of Clymene,
The sun's command importun'd for a day
Of his unwilling father, and for so
Rash an attempt, fell headlong into Po.
you shall fall or worse; not leave so much
As empty names, to shew there once were such.
The Greek and Latin language he commands,
So all that then was writ in both these lands;
The French and the Italian he hath gain’d,
And all the wit that in them is contain'd.
So, if he pleases to translate a piece
From France or Italy, old Rome or Greece,
The understanding reader soon will find,
It is the best of any of that kind;
But when he lets his own rare fancy loose,
There is no flight so noble as his muse.
Treats he of war? Bellona doth advance,
And leads his march with her refulgent lance.
Sings he of love? Cupid about him lurks,
And Venus in her chariot draws his works.
Whate'er his subject be, he'll make it fit
To live hereafter emperor of wit.
He is the Muses' darling, all the nine
Phæbus disclaim, and term him more divine.
The wondrous Tasso, that so long hath borne
The sacred laurel, shall remain forlorn.
Alonso de Ercilla, that in strong
And mighty lines hath Araucana sung,
And Sallust, that the ancient Hebrew story
Hath poetiz'd, submit unto your glory.
So the chief swans of Tagus, Arne, and Seine,
Must yield to Thames, and veil unto your strain.
, generous magazine of wit, you bright
Planet of learning, dissipate the night
Of dulness, wherein us this age involves,
And (from our ignorance) redeem our souls.
A word at parting, Sir, I could not choose
Thus to congratulate your happy muse ;
nd (though I vilify your worth) my zeal
(And so in mercy think) intended well.
The world will find your lines are great and strong,
The nihil ultra of the English tongue.
Cokayne also celebrated Cotton's merits on several other
occasions, but only two of those effusions are deserving
of notice, the one for the pithiness of the compliment paid to him, and the other because his father is mentioned:
“ TO MY HONOURED COUSIN MR. CHARLES COTTON, JUNIOR.
Donne, Suckling, Randolph, Drayton, Massinger,
Habington, Sandys, May, my acquaintance were;
Jonson, Chapman, and Holland I have seen,
And with them too should have acquainted been.
What needs this catalogue ? Th' are dead and gone,
And to me you are all of them in one.”
" TO MY COUSIN MR. CHARLES COTTON THE YOUNGER.
In how few years have you rais'd up an high
Column of learning by your industry,
More glorious than those pyramids that old
Canopus view'd, or Cair doth yet behold !
Your noble father (that for able parts
Hath won an high opinion in all hearts),
May like the Elder Scaliger look down
With admiration on his worthy son.
Proceed, fair plant of ex'ellencies, and grow
So high to shadow all that are below.” Colonel Lovelace, who addressed an ode"? to Cotton's father, and wrote an elegy on his aunt, Cassandra, inscribed “ The Triumphs of Philamore and Amoret, to the noblest of our youth and best of friends, Charles Cotton, Esquire, being at Beresford, at his house in Staffordshire, from London."'18 In these verses he laments Cotton's absence, and thus affectionately anticipates his return :
“ But all our clouds shall be o'erblown when thee
In our horizon, bright, once more we see;
When thy dear presence shall our souls new dress ;
And spring an universal cheerfulness,
When we shall be o'erwhelm'd in joy, like they
That change their night for a vast half year's day.
Then shall the wretched few that do repine
See and recant their blasphemies in wine;
Then shall they grieve that thought I've sung too free
High and aloud of thy true worth and Thee :
And their foul heresies and lips submit
To th' all forgiving breath of Amoret ;
And me alone their anger's object call,
That from my height so miserably did fall;
my invention thin and poor,
Who have said nought, since I could say no more."
17 Lucasta. edit. 1649. “The Grasshopper, To my noble friend, Mr. Charles Cotton.” p. 34.
The most remarkable lines are, however, the following, because they seem to corroborate Aubrey's statement that Cotton had relieved Lovelace in his distress : 19
“What fate was mine when in my obscure cave
almost close prisoner in a grave
Your beams could reach me through this vault of night,
And canton the dark dungeon with light!
Whence me, as gen'rous Spahy's, you unbound,
Whilst I now know myself both free and crown'd.”
Cotton20 and several other persons wrote Elegies to
Lovelace's memory, which were printed at the end of his
“ Lucasta and Posthume Poems” in 1659.
The most material facts which Cotton's own poems establish are, that he was a zealous royalist, and an uncompromising enemy of Cromwell. He omitted no oppor
. tunity of expressing his sentiments ;^1 and a decisive proof
19 “Lovelace died in 1658, in a mean lodging in Gunpowder Alley, near Shoe Lane. Aubrey's statement is, that George Petty, haber
dasher in Fleet Street, carried twenty shillings to him every Monday
morning from Sir —- Many, and Charles Cotton, Esq., for months,
and was never repaid.' Athen. Oxon. ed. Bliss, vol. ïïi. p. 462, 463.
20 See Cotton's Poems, p. 481.
21 For example, in his Voyage to Ireland :
“ We enter'd the port,
Where another King's head invited me down,
For indeed I have ever been true to the Crown.” p. 198.
In his Contentation, he says: “The man is happy
Who free from debt, and clear from crimes,
Honours those laws that others fear,
Who ill of princes in worst times,
Will neither speak himself, nor hear."
In his Ode to Melancholy:
“ An infamous Usurper's come,
Whose name is sounding in mine ear
Like that, methinks, of Oliver."
“And yet, methinks, it cannot be
Should be crept into me.
My skin could ne'er contain sure so much evil,
Nor any place but hell can hold so great a Devil.”
The Chorus to one of his Bacchanalian songs is:
“ Then let us revel, quaff, and sing,
Health and his sceptre to the King.” p. 448. See also his Epode to Alexander Brome on the King's return, p. 511, and several other instances throughout his Poems
of his political opinions is exhibited in his verses on the execution of James Earl of Derby, in 1651,9% and in his severe castigation of Waller for writing a panegyric on the Protector about the
TO POET E. W. OCCASIONED FOR HIS WRITING A PANEGYRIC
ON OLIVER CROMWELL.
From whence, vile Poet, didst thou glean the wit,
And words for such a vitious poem fit?
Where couldst thou paper find was not too white,
Or ink that could be black enough to write ?
What servile devil tempted thee to be
A Aatterer of thine own slavery?
To kiss thy bondage and extol the deed,
At once that made thy prince, and country bleed ?
I wonder much thy false heart did not dread,
And shame to write what all men blush to read ;
Thus with a base ingratitude to rear
Trophies unto thy master's murtherer?
Who call'd thee coward (-) much mistook
The characters of thy pedantic look;
Thou hast at once abused thyself and us;
He's stout that dares flatter a tyranne thus.
Put up thy pen and ink, muzzle thy muse,
Adulterate hag fit for a common stews,
No good man's library; writ thou hast
Treason in rhyme has all thy works defaced :
Such is thy fault, that when I think to find
A punishment of the severest kind,
For thy offence, my malice cannot name
A greater; than, once to commit the same.
Where was thy reason then, when thou began
To write against the sense of God and man?
Within thy guilty breast despair took place,
Thou would'st despairing die in spite of grace.
At once thou art judge, and malefactor shown,
Each sentence in thy poem is thine own.
Then, what thou hast pronounced go execute,
Hang up thyself, and say, I bid thee do it;
Fear not thy memory, that cannot die,
This panegyric is thy elegy,
Which shall be when, or wheresoever read,
A living poem to upbraid thee dead.”
Though ardent royalists, both Cotton and his father seem to have escaped the persecutions to which the Cavaliers were exposed, as their names have not been found in connection with any public event during the Common
22 Cotton's Poems, p 411.
wealth ; nor do they appear to have been obliged to
purchase safety by compounding for their estates. Of
Cotton's acquaintances at this period, the most remark-
able, with reference to this work, was Isaak Walton, his
adopted father in the art of Angling, who became one of
his intimate friends, and whose esteem is strong evidence
of Cotton's moral worth. Walton was also known to his
father, for, in speaking of the lives of Donne and Wotton,
“How happy was my father, then, to see
Those men he lov'd, by him he lov'd to be
Rescued from frailties and mortality.”
Literature and the pleasures of society did not however
entirely engross his time; for, besides his favourite pursuit
of Angling, which he followed before he was seventeen,23
he amused himself in gardening and planting. Upon the
latter subject, he not only afterwards wrote a treatise, 24 but
proved that his knowledge was practical, by planting his
own grounds near Beresford Hall;25 and the taste with
which he improved that place, caused him to be compli-
mented by his constant eulogist, Sir Aston Cokayne.
Towards the end of July, or early in August, 1656, when Cotton was in his twenty seventh year, he married his cousin Isabella, daughter of Sir Thomas Hutchinson, of Owthorpe, in Nottinghamshire. In contemplation of that alliance, his father and himself vested the manors of Bentley, Borrowashe, and Beresford, together with the rectory of Spoondon, and other lands, in trustees, to sell so much of the same as would pay off a mortgage of
23 Cotton says in his part of “The Complete Angler," in 1676: “I will tell you nothing, I have not made myself as certain of as any man can be in thirty years' experience, for so long I have been a dabbler in that art.” p. 406.
25 “ Viator. It [Beresford Hall] appears on a sudden, but not before 'twas looked for. It stands prettily, and here's wood about it too, but so young as appears to be of your own planting. “Piscator. It is 80."-Cotton's part of the Complete Angler, p. 420.
“ Your Basford house you have adorned much,
And Bently hopes it shortly shall be such;
Think on 't; and set but Bently in repair,
To both those Basfords you will shew y' are heir." 27 Vide the accompanying pedigree.