Poetry of Charles Cotton: Genre and Style

The paper discusses stylistic and thematic features of Charles Cotton’s (1630–1687) poetry, which link him to the Renaissance and Baroque tradition, as well as the tendencies which flourish in the Rococo and Sentimentalism poetry in the Age of Enlightenment. The paper emphasizes the fact that his poetic manner of expression, which can be characterized as both natural and easy, is, on one hand, a result of his aspiration to achieve the ideal of Grace — a Renaissance aesthetic category, and, on the other hand, stems from his imitating Horace’s sermo style. The paper traces down the influence of Edmund Waller
on Cotton’s poetry, which can be found in the smoothness and “sweetness” of Cotton’s verses resulting from him strictly following the rules of syllabotonics; as well as his connection with metaphysical poetry clearly seen in his strophes and stanzas, and especially imagery and figurative language (his conceits
in particular), and his treating the concept of wit in accordance with its baroque interpretation. The paper deals with Cotton’s ingenious modification of the existing genres, such as the Pindaric ode, the epistle, the pastoral. Experimenting with the Pindaric Ode, which was new to the English poetry, Cotton partially follows the pattern created by Cowley, striving to render a live emotion in poetic form. In his pastoral poetry we find both modifications of this genre (hedonistic and meditative). Cotton’s pastoral interacts with other poetic genres (the epistle, the ode, the song). In the concluding part of the paper it is stressed that behind his poetry a unique human personality is clearly seen.

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