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Paul Hartle (ed.), The Poetry of Charles Cotton, Vol. 1

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Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatuspg 385Editor’s NoteCritical ApparatusThe Anglers Ballad by C.C.


  • 1Away to the brooke
  • Editor’s Note2all your tackle out looke
  • Critical Apparatus3     heers a day that's worth a years wishing
  • 4See that all things be right
  • 5for tis a very spight
  • 6     to want tooles when a man goes a fishing


  • Editor’s Note7Your rod with tops two,
  • 8for the same will not doe
  • 9     if your manner of angling you vary
  • 10and full well you may thinke
  • Editor’s Note11if you troll with a pink
  • Critical Apparatus12     one too weak will be apt to miscary

pg 3863

  • 13Then basket neat made
  • Editor’s Note14by a maister ins trade
  • Critical Apparatus15     in a belt at your shoulders must dangle
  • 16for none ere was so vaine
  • 17to weare this to disdaine,
  • Editor’s Note18     who a trew brother was of the angle.




  • 31All these being on
  • Editor’s Note32tis high tyme we were gone,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus33     down, and upward, that all may have plesure
  • 34till here meeting at night,
  • 35wee shall have the delight,
  • 36     to discourse of our fortunes at leasure.

pg 3877

  • Editor’s Note37The day's not too bright,
  • 38and the wind hits us right,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus39     and all nature does seem to invite us,
  • 40wee have all things at will
  • 41for to second our skill,
  • 42     as they all did conspire to delight us,



  • 49Away then, Away,
  • 50wee loose sport by delay,
  • Critical Apparatus51     but first leave all our sorrows behind us
  • 52if misfortune do come,
  • 53wee are all gone from home,
  • 54     And a fishing she never can find us.


  • 55The angler is free
  • Editor’s Note56from the cares that degree
  • 57     finds it self with so often tormented:
  • Critical Apparatus58and although wee should slay
  • Critical Apparatus59Each a hundred to day
  • 60     Tis a slaughter needs ne'r be repented

pg 38811

  • 61And though wee display
  • Editor’s Note62all our arts to betray
  • 63     what were made for mans plesure and diet,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus64Yet both Princes, and States,
  • 65May for all our Quaint bates,
  • 66     Rule them selves and their People in quiet.


  • Editor’s Note67We scratch not our pates,
  • Editor’s Note68Nor repine at the Rates,
  • 69     Our Superiours impose on our Living;
  • Editor’s Note70But do frankly submit,
  • 71Knowing they have more wit
  • 72     In demanding than we have in giving.


  • 73Whilst quiet we sit,
  • 74We conclude all things fit,
  • 75     Acquiescing with Hearty Submission;
  • 76For though simple, wee know
  • Editor’s Note77That soft murmurs will grow
  • 78     At the last, unto downright Sedition.


  • 79We care not who says,
  • 80And intends it dispraise,
  • Editor’s Note81     That an Angler t'a Fool is next Neighbour;
  • Editor’s Note82Let him prate what care wee,
  • 83We're as Honest as he,
  • Editor’s Note84     And so let him take that, for his Laboure.


  • 85Wee covet no wealth
  • Editor’s Note86But the Blessing of Health,
  • 87     And that greater Good Conscience within;
  • 88Such Devotion wee bring,
  • 89To our God, and our King,
  • 90     That from either no offers can win.

pg 38916

pg 390

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
The Anglers Ballad by C.C. (CnC 2)
Choice of copy-text is not straightforward. Y2 is probably the earliest MS authority, written in a late seventeenth-century hand on two leaves bound in at the end of an exemplar of Angler 1676, but the date of transcription cannot be further determined, and the text lacks the final 33 lines. On the other hand, BL3 in its current form cannot be earlier than 1688 (see note below on 93), although the marginal notes on James II and the rhyming verb prove that the scribe's own exemplar pre-dated William III's accession. Because BL3 is independent of 1689 (see Textual Introduction), I have sometimes accepted the later MS readings, both where they agree with 1689 against Y2 and where the BL3 reading is demonstrably superior to either other text.
Both BL3 and 1689 indent lines 3 and 6 of each stanza, (although BL3 fails to do so twice, ll. 3, 75) but there is no parallel in Y2; BL3 and Y2 number stanzas in Arabic numerals, whilst 1689 numbers in Roman. In these matters, I have adopted the presentational practice of BL3 and 1689 on indenting and of BL3 and Y2 on stanza numbering.
Critical Apparatus
Title] The Anglers Ballad of Mr. Cotton. BL3; The Angler's Ballad. 1689 (pp. 76–81)
Editor’s Note
The familiar themes of innocent enjoyment and political quiescence found in 'The Retirement' and 'Contentation' are reiterated with robust cheerfulness in this ballad, which may date from around 1676 (see Textual Introduction) or as late as 1685–87. Notwithstanding the language of bloodshed and massacre in 47–8, 58–60, any anxious recollection of civil war seems remote; compare 'To my dear and most worthy Friend, Mr. Isaac Walton', 28. Angler 1676 (p. 51) describes fishing as 'a War where you sometimes win, and must sometimes expect to loose.'
Editor’s Note
[Title] On the loose ballad form, see headnote to 'The Legend of the Famous Furious Expert And Valiant Gittar Masters, Caveliero Comer, and Don Hill'.
Editor’s Note
2–30 The list of 'tackle' recalls the 'old Rhime out of an old Fish-book', cited by Walton in The Compleat Angler [1653], ed. Jonquil Bevan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 155:
  • My rod, and my line, my flote and my lead,
  • My hook, and my plummet, my whetstone and knife,
  • My Basket, my baits, both living and dead,
  • My net, and my meat, for that is the chief;
  • Then I must have thred and hairs great and smal,
  • With mine Angling purse, and so you have all.
Critical Apparatus
3 that's] yt. is BL3; that is 1689
Critical Apparatus
wishing] wishin [text cropped] Y2; Wishing; BL3; wishing; 1689
Editor’s Note
7 tops. The 'top' is the upper section of the rod; compare Angler 1676, 101 (the first instance recorded in OED). In this case, there are alternative tops to reflect the type of fish angled for.
Editor’s Note
11 troll with a pink. To angle with a running line, using 'a Minnow (which some call a Penke)' (The Compleat Angler [1653], ed. Bevan, 102). Angler 1676 (p. 99) makes it clear that this is designed to catch the heavier trout rather than the grayling:
  • Angling in the middle then for a Trout or Grayling is of two sorts.
  •       With a Pink or Minnow for a Trout: or,
  •       With a Worm, Grub or Caddis for a Grayling.
Hence the need for a stronger 'top'.
Critical Apparatus
12 weak will] weak, may BL3
Editor’s Note
14 A skilled and experienced workman, his own master rather than apprenticed or employed by another (OED); see also Scarronides I, 846.
Critical Apparatus
15 dangle] dang [text cropped] Y2; dangle; BL3, 1689
Editor’s Note
18 brotherof the angle. The phrase is Walton's, first used in the opening conversation in The Compleat Angler [1653], ed. Bevan, 64: 'I am a Brother of the Angle', and on three more occasions (pp. 92, 96). Cotton borrows it in Angler 1676 (sig. [A4]r, pp. 7, 11). An angle is a fish-hook; see note on 'The Retirement', 41.
Editor’s Note
19 pouch. Compare Angler 1676, 25.
Editor’s Note
20 mail. A travelling bag, portmanteau; see The History of the Life of the Duke of Espernon (1670), 2.7 (p. 335): 'His Jewels also, which were lock'd up in a little iron Chest, and carried in a Male.'
Critical Apparatus
21 silks,] Silk, BL3
Editor’s Note
21 Materials for the making of flies; see Angler 1676, 53–82 for details of flies, ordered by the month.
Editor’s Note
21 crewells. Thin worsted yarns; used five times in The Compleat Angler [1653], ed. Bevan, 108–11.
Critical Apparatus
25 Then] Then BL3; The Y2, 1689; the rhetorical patterning of 13 and 19 confirms the superiority of the BL3 reading
Editor’s Note
25 bookes. Angler's pocket-books to hold fishing-tackle; the earliest citation in OED is from 1824.
Critical Apparatus
28 your hone] the possessive pronoun is deleted, perhaps by an early reader, in British Library 11626.c.4 [BL2]
Editor’s Note
28 hone. Whetstone.
Editor’s Note
29 points. Presumably the sharp ends of the fish-hooks.
Editor’s Note
32 tis high tyme. See note on 'To John Bradshaw, Esq;', 29.
Critical Apparatus
33 plesure] ples [text cropped] Y2; pleasure; BL3, 1689
Editor’s Note
33 down, and upward. Angling both upstream and downstream.
Editor’s Note
37–9 Ideal angling conditions; see note on 'To my dear and most worthy Friend, Mr. Isaac Walton', 29–32.
Critical Apparatus
39 does seem] BL3, 1689; seems Y2
Editor’s Note
39 Nature's invitation is formulaic; see, e.g., Sir William Killigrew, Pandora (1664), 1.[i].409 (p. 15); Edward Howard, The Six Days Adventure (1671), 3.i.431 (p. 42).
Editor’s Note
43 In either fast-flowing or quiet water; compare Angler 1676, 84: 'The best Instruction I can give you, is, that, seeing the wind curles the water, and blows the right way, you would now angle up the still deep to day; for betwixt the Rocks where the streams are, you would find it now too brisk, and besides I would have you take fish in both Waters.'
Editor’s Note
44 panier. Fish-basket; see Angler 1676, 25, 56.
Editor’s Note
45 trout and grayling. See 'WINTER. De Monsieur Marigny', 55 and note.
Editor’s Note
47 a bloody day. Commonplace heroic formula, here used ironically; see 'The Battaile of Yvry', 184.
Critical Apparatus
51 all our sorrows] all Sorrows BL3 us] missing [text cropped] Y2; us, BL3; us; 1689
Editor’s Note
56 degree. Rank.
Critical Apparatus
58 although] BL3, 1689; though Y2
Critical Apparatus
59 to day] to day, BL3, 1689; a day Y2
Editor’s Note
62 Compare Sandys, Ovid, 15.474 (pp. 678–9): 'Away | With nets, g[r]ins, snares, and arts that doe betray'; Fanshawe, Il Pastor Fido, 5.ix.[5485] (Fanshawe, Staton, 163). With the mock-serious betrayal, compare 'To my dear and most worthy Friend, Mr. Isaac Walton', 34: 'The Scaly People to betray'.
Critical Apparatus
64–96] omitted Y2, where a dash at the end of 63 makes it clear that the scribe knew his exemplar was wanting; text from BL3, collated with 1689
Editor’s Note
64–78 The familiar royalist defence of the virtues of composition with the powerful, which sustained Walton and his fellow anglers through the Interregnum and now enjoins 'hearty submission' (75) to one or other of the restored Stuarts.
Editor’s Note
64 Princes, and States. Formulaic doublet; see also Horace, 5.iii.24.
Editor’s Note
67 See note on 'The Judgment of Paris. Dialogue', 602.
Editor’s Note
68 Rates. Taxes.
Editor’s Note
70 frankly. Unconditionally.
Editor’s Note
77 soft murmurs. Commonplace collocation in this context; see, e.g., Henry Vaughan, 'To the River Isca', 24 (Vaughan, 39).
Editor’s Note
81 I have not found any early proverbial link between angling and folly, although Wilson (p. 266) notes Leigh Hunt in 1819 referring to '[t]he good old joke … that angling is … 'a stick and a string, with a fly at one end and a fool at the other' '.
Editor’s Note
82 prate. Chatter; see note on 'La Illustrissima', 37.
Editor’s Note
84 take that, for his Laboure. Traditional phrase (although unrecorded in Tilley or Wilson), where 'that' contemptuously implies something of no value (often a blow); see, e.g., Jo. Cooke, Greenes Tu quoque (1614), 202 (sig. [B4]r); T.B., The Rebellion of Naples (1649), 2.ii.160 (p. 7).
Editor’s Note
86 Health is conventionally regarded as a blessing; see, e.g., Robert Roche, Eustathia (1599), 602 (sig. C4v); Jonson, Volpone, 2.ii.84 (Jonson, 5: 52).
Critical Apparatus
93 to our King James the Second;] to King William the third, BL3; a marginal note reads: '[J. ye 2d.' ; to our King James the Second; 1689 If the poem was already complete in 1676 (a possibility only; see Textual Introduction), Charles II must have been the monarch celebrated; Cotton himself or another may have substituted his brother after 1685 (a substitution which may itself have preceded another, as recorded in BL3). We cannot infer, as Buxton, who was unaware of either BL3 or Y2, does (p. 264), that 'this line dates the poem as the latest, so far as we know, that Cotton wrote.'
Editor’s Note
93 On the implications of this line for the poem's date, see Textual Notes.
Editor’s Note
94 Honest Anglers. Walton prefaces The Compleat Angler (1653) with an epistle 'To the honest ANGLER' (ed. Bevan, 59), and indeed 'honest' is a key term in the work's moral lexicon. Cotton writes twice in Angler 1676 of the 'honest Brothers of the Angle' (sig. [A4]r; p. 11).
Critical Apparatus
96 As] With 1689 be reckond.] b'admir'd. BL3; a marginal note reads: '[reckond'; be reckon'd. 1689
Editor’s Note
96 good Subjects. Cotton's political ideal; see also Horace, 5.iii.195.
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