1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Cotton

John Holland, in Psalmists of Britain. Records of upwards of One Hundred and Fifty Authors, who have rendered the Whole or Parts of The Book of Psalms, into English Verse (1843) 2:92-93.



Charles Cotton, who owes the introduction of his name into these pages, to the fact of his having versified the Psalm given below, is much more generally known as the friend of honest Izaak Walton, and himself a writer on angling, than as a Poet. He was, however, not only the author of a burlesque poem, entitled " A Voyage to Ireland," and another, "Virgil Travestie," and one, on "The Wonders of the Peak," of Derbyshire, amidst which he resided — but likewise of a variety of smaller pieces in verse. His compositions are more remarkable for their fluency and humour than for their delicacy: and he appears to have liked good liquor as well as ribald jokes — for in the poem first abovementioned, he tells us that he had only reached Chester, ere between "riding and drinking hard," he was so "fevered" on the Sunday, that, although he had intended to go to Church, he thought "a little phlebotomy" would do him good.

But after my bleeding, I soon understood
It had cool'd my devotion as well as my blood:
For I had no more mind to look on my Psalter,
Than (saving your presence) I had to a halter.

Mr. Chalmers, in whose collection a great number of Cotton's poems are included, says, "his fate as a poet has been singular. The Virgil Travestie and his other burlesque performances have been perpetuated by at least fifteen editions, while his poems published in 1689, (two years after his death,) in which he displays true taste and elegance, have never been reprinted until now. The present, indeed, is but a selection, as many of his smaller pieces abound in those indelicacies which were the reproach of the reign of Charles II. In what remain, we find a strange mixture of broad humour and drollery, with delicacy and tenderness of sentiment, and even with devotional poetry of a superior cast."