Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > England
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV.  1876–79.
The Retirement
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        5
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!        10
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!        15
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,        20
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,        25
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,        30
  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        35
  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;        40
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;        45
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        50
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.        55
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,        60
  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        65
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        70
  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        75
  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        80
  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        85
On any thriving under Fortune’s smile,
  Contented live, and then—contented die.

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