Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Retirement

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


The Retirement

By Charles Cotton (1630–1687)

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 outwears

Upon the most conspicuous theatres,

Where naught but vanity and vice do reign.

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!

O, how happy here ’s our leisure!

O, how innocent our pleasure!

O ye valleys! O ye mountains!

O 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 doth make,

And, all his Maker’s wonders to entend,

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 the flowery 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 learned industriously to try.

Such streams Rome’s yellow Tiber cannot show,

The Iberian Tagus or Ligurian Po;

The Maese, the Danube, and the Rhine

Are puddle-water all, compared 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, Thame and Isis when conjoined 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

Even 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 undisturbed and free!

Here in this despised 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.