The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation
by Izaak Walton
CHAPTER 1: A Conference betwixt an Angler,
a Faulkner, and a Hunter, each
commending his Recreation.
PISC. You are well overtaken, Gentlemen, a good morning to you both; I have stretched my legs up Tottenham-hill to overtake you, hoping your business may occasion you towards Ware this fine fresh May morning.
VENA. Sir, I for my part shall almost answer your hopes, for my purpose is to drink my morning draught at the Thatcht House in Hodsden, and I think not to rest till I come thither, where I have appointed a friend or two to meet me: but for this Gentleman that you see with me, I know not how far he intends his journey; he came so lately into my company, that I have scarce had time to ask him the question.
AUC. Sir, I shall by your favour bear you company as far as Theobalds, and there leave you, for then I turn up to a friends house who mews a Hawk for me, which I now long to see.
VENA. Sir, we are all so happy as to have a fine, fresh, cool morning, and I hope we shall each be the happier in the others company. And Gentlemen, that I may not lose yours, I shall either abate or amend my pace to enjoy it; knowing that (as the Italians say) Good company in a journey makes the way to seem the shorter.
AUC. It may do so Sir, with the help of good discourse, which methinks we may promise from you that both look and speak so cheerfully: and for my part I promise you, as an invitation to it, that I will be as free and open hearted, as discretion will allow me to be with strangers.
VENA. And Sir, I promise the like.
PISC. I am right glad to hear your answers, and in confidence you speak the truth, I shall put on a boldnesse to ask you Sir, Whether businesse or pleasure caused you to be so early up, and walk so fast, for this other Gentleman hath declared he is going to see a Hawk, that a friend mews for him.
VENA. Sir mine is a mixture of both, a little businesse and more pleasure, for I intend this day to do all my businesse, and then bestow another day or two in hunting the Otter, which a friend that I go to meet, tells me, is much pleasanter than any other chase whatsoever; howsoever I mean to try it; for tomorrow morning we shall meet a pack of Otter dogs of noble Mr. Sadlers upon Amwell Hill, who will be there so early, that they intend to prevent the Sun-rising.
PISC. Sir, my fortune has answered my desires, and my purpose is to bestow a day or two in helping to destroy some of those villanous vermin, for I hate them perfectly, because they love fish so well, or rather, because they destroy so much; indeed so much, that in my judgment all men that keep Otter-dogs ought to have pensions from the King to incourage them to destroy the very breed of those base Otters, they do so much mischief.
VENA. But what say you to the Foxes of the Nation, would not you as willingly have them destroyed? for doubtless they do as much mischief as Otters do.
PISC. Oh Sir if they do, it is not so much to me and my fraternity as those base Vermine the Otters do.
AUC. Why Sir, I pray, of what Fraternity are you, that you are so angry with the poor Otters?
PISC. I am (Sir) a brother of the Angle, and therefore an enemy to the Otter: for you are to note, that we Anglers all love one another, and therefore do I hate the Otter both for my own and for their sakes who are of my brotherhood.
VENA. And I am a lover of Hounds, I have followed many a pack of dogs many a mile, and heard many merry men make sport and scoff at Anglers.
AUC. And I profess myself a Faulkner, and have heard many grave serious men pity them, tis such a heavy, contemptible, dull recreation.
PISC. You know Gentlemen, tis an easie thing to scoff at any Art or Recreation; a little wit mixt with ill nature, confidence, and malice, will do it; but though they often venture boldly, yet they are often caught even in their own trap, according to that of Lucian, the father of the family of Scoffers.Lucian well skilld in scoffing, this hath writ,
Friend, thats your folly which you think your wit:
This you vent oft, void both of wit and fear,
Meaning another, when your self you jeere.
If to this you add what Solomon sayes of Scoffers, That they are abomination to mankind. Let him that thinks fit be a Scoffer still, but I account them enemies to me, and to all that love vertue and Angling.
And for you that have heard many grave serious men pity Anglers; let me tell you Sir, there be many men that are by others taken to be serious grave men, which we contemn and pity. Men that are taken to be grave, because Nature hath made them of a sowre complexion, money-getting-men, men that spend all their time first in getting, and next in anxious care to keep it; men that are condemned to be rich, and then always busie or discontented: for these poor-rich-men, we Anglers pity them perfectly, and stand in no need to borrow their thoughts to think our selves happy. No, no, Sir, we enjoy a contentednesse above the reach of such dispositions, and as the learned and ingenuous Mountagne sayes like himself freely, When my Cat and I entertain each other with mutual apish tricks (as playing with a garter) who knowes but that I make my Cat more sport than she makes me? shall I conclude her to be simple, that has her time to begin or refuse sportiveness as freely as I my self have? Nay, who knowes but that it is a defect of my not understanding her language (for doubtless Cats talk and reason with one another) that we agree no better: and who knows but that she pitties me for being no wiser, and laughs and censures my follie for making sport for her when we play together.
Thus freely speaks Mountagne concerning Cats, and I hope I may take as great a liberty to blame any man, and laugh at him too, let him be never so serious, that hath not heard what Anglers can say in the justification of their Art and Recreation, which I may again tell you is so full of pleasure, that we need not borrow their thoughts to think our selves happy.
VENA. Sir, you have almost amazed me, for though I am no scoffer, yet I have (I pray let me speak it without offence) alwayes looked upon Anglers as more patient and more simple men, then I fear I shall find you to be.
PISC. Sir, I hope you will not judge my earnestness to be impatience: and for my simplicity, if by that you mean a harmlessness, or that simplicity which was usually found in the primitive Christians, who were (as most Anglers are) quiet men, and followers of peace; men that were so simply-wise, as not to sell their Consciences to buy riches, and with them vexation and a fear to die. If you mean such simple men as lived in those times when there were fewer Lawyers; when men might have had a Lordship safely conveyed to them in a piece of Parchment no bigger than your hand (though several sheets will not do it safely in this wiser age) I say, Sir, if you take us Anglers to be such simple men as I have spoke of, then my self and those of my Profession will be glad to be so understood: But if by simplicity you meant to express a general defect in those that profess and practise the excellent art of Angling, I hope in time to disabuse you, and make the contrary appear so evidently, that if you will but have patience to hear me, I shall remove all the Anticipations that discourse, or time, or prejudice have possessd you with against that laudable and ancient art; for I know it is worthy the knowledge and practice of a wise man.
But (Gentlemen) though I be able to do this, I am not so unmannerly as to engross all the discourse to my self; and, therefore you two having declared your selves, the one to be a lover of Hawks, the other of Hounds, I shall be most glad to hear what you can say in the commendation of that Recreation which you love and practise; and having heard what you can say, I shall be glad to exercise your attention with what I can say concerning my own Recreation, and by this means we shall make the way to seem the shorter: and if you like my motion, I would have Mr. Faulkner to begin.
AUC. Your motion is consented to with all my heart, and to testifie it I will begin as you have desired me.
And first, for the Element that I use to trade in, which is the Air, an Element of more worth than weight, an Element that doubtless exceeds both the Earth and Water; for though I sometimes deal in both, yet the Air is most properly mine, I and my Hawks use that most, and it yields us most recreation; it stops not the high soaring of my noble generous Falcon; in it she ascends to such an height, as the dull eyes of beasts and fish are not able to reach to; their bodies are too gross for such high elevations: in the Air my troops of Hawks soar up on high, and when they are lost in the sight of men, then they attend upon and converse with the gods; therefore I think my Eagle is so justly styled, Joves faithful servant in Ordinary: and that very Falcon, that I am now going to see, deserves no meaner a title, for she usually in her flight endangers her self, (like the son of Dedalus) to have her wings scorchd by the Suns heat, but her mettle makes her careless of danger, for she then heeds nothing, but makes her nimble Pinions cut the fluid air, and so makes her high way over the steepest mountains and deepest rivers, and in her glorious carere looks with contempt upon those high Steeples and magnificent Palaces which we adore and wonder at; from which height I can make her to descend by a word from my mouth (which she both knows and obeyes) to accept of meat from my hand, to own me for her master, to go home with me, and be willing the next day to afford me the like recreation.
And more, this Element of Air which I profess to trade in, the worth of it is such, and it is of such necessity, that no creature whatsoever, not onely those numerous creatures that feed on the face of the earth, but those various creatures that have their dwelling within the waters, every creature that hath life in its Nostrils stands in need of my Element. The waters cannot preserve the fish without Air, witness the not-breaking of Ice in an extream Frost; the reason is, for that if the inspiring and expiring Organ of any animal be stopt, it suddenly yields to Nature, and dies. Thus necessary is Air to the existence both of fish and beasts, nay, even to man himself; that Air or breath of life, with which God at first inspired Mankind, he, if he wants it, dies presently, becomes a sad object to all that loved and beheld him, and in an instant turns to putrefaction.
Nay more, the very birds of the air (those that be not Hawks) are both so many and so useful and pleasant to mankind, that I must not let them pass without some observations: They both feed and refresh him; feed him with their choice bodies, and refresh him with their heavenly voices. I will not undertake to mention the several kinds of Fowl by which this is done; and his curious palate pleased by day, and which with their very excrements afford him a soft lodging at night. These I will pass by, but not those little nimble Musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious Ditties, with which Nature hath furnished them to the shame of Art.
As first the Lark, when she means to rejoyce, to chear her self and those that hear her, she then quits the earth, and sings as she ascends higher into the air, and having ended her heavenly imployment, grows then mute and sad to think she must descend to the dull earth, which she would not touch but for necessity.
How do the Black-bird and Thrassel with their melodious voices bid welcome to the cheerful Spring, and in their fixed Moneths warble forth such ditties as no art or instrument can reach to?
Nay, the smaller birds also do the like in their particular seasons, as namely the Leverock, the Tit-lark, the little Linnet, and the honest Robin, that loves mankind both alive and dead.
But the Nightingale (another of my Airy Creatures) breathes such sweet lowd musick out of her little instrumental throat, that it might make mankind to think Miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight (when the very labourer sleeps securely) should hear (as I have very often) the clear aires, the sweet descants, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, Lord, what Musick hast thou provided for the Saints in Heaven, when thou affordest bad men such musick on earth!
And this makes me the lesse to wonder at the many Aviaries in Italy, or at the great charge of Varro his Aviarie, the ruines of which are yet to be seen in Rome, and is still so famous there, that it is reckoned for one of those Notables which men of forraign Nations either record or lay up in their memories when they return from travel.
This for the birds of pleasure, of which very much more might be said. My next shall be of Birds of Political use; I think tis not to be doubted that Swallowes have been taught to carry Letters betwixt two Armies. But tis certain that when the Turks besieged Malta or Rodes (I now remember not which twas) Pigeons are then related to carry and recarry Letters. And Mr. G. Sandis in his Travells (fol. 269) relates it to be done betwixt Aleppo and Babylon. But if that be disbelieved, tis not to be doubted that the Dove was sent by Noah, to give him notice of Land, when to him all appeared to be Sea, and the Dove proved a faithful messenger. And for the Sacrifices of the Law, a pair of Turtle Doves or young Pigeons were as well accepted as costly Bulls and Rams. And when God would feed the Prophet Elijah (1 King. 17), after a kind of miraculous manner, he did it by Ravens, who brought him meat morning and evening. Lastly, the Holy Ghost when he descended visibly upon our Saviour, did it by assuming the shape of a Dove. And to conclude this part of my Discourse, pray remember these wonders were done by birds of the Air, the Element in which they and I take so much pleasure.
There is also a little contemptible winged Creature (an inhabitant of my Aerial Element) namely the laborous Bee, of whose Prudence, Policy and regular Government of their own Commonwealth I might say much, as also of their several kinds, and how useful their honey and wax is both for meat and Medicines to mankind; but I will leave them to their sweet labour, without the least disturbance, believing them to be all very busie amongst the herbs and flowers that we see nature puts forth this May morning.
And now to return to my Hawks from whom I have made too long a Digression; you are to note, that they are usually distinguished into two kinds; namely the long-winged and the short-winged Hawk: of the first kind, there be chiefly in use amongst us in this Nation,
The Gerfalcon and Jerkin.
The Falcon and Tassel-gentel.
The Laner and Laneret.
The Bockerel and Bockeret.
The Saker and Sacaret.
The Marlin and Jack Marlin.
The Hoby and Jack.
There is the Stelletto of Spain.
The Bloud red Rook from Turky.
The Waskite from Virginia.
And there is of short-winged Hawks
The Eagle and Iron.
The Goshawk and Tarcel.
The Sparhawk and Musket.
The French Pye of two sorts.
These are reckoned Hawks of note and worth, but we have also of an inferiour rank,
The Stanyel, the Ringtail.
The Raven, the Buzzard.
The forked Kite, the bald Buzzard.
The Hen-driver, and others that I forbear to name.
Gentlemen, if I should inlarge my Discourse to the observation of the Eires, the Brancher, the Ramish Hawk, the Haggard, and the two sorts of Lentners, and then treat of their several Ayries, their Mewings, rare order of casting, and the renovation of their Feathers, their reclaiming, dyeting, and then come to their rare stories of practice; I say, if I should enter into these, and many other observations that I could make, it would be much, very much pleasure to me: but least I should break the rules of Civility with you, by taking up more than the proportion of time allotted to me, I will here break off, and intreat you, Mr. Venator, to say what you are able in the commendation of Hunting, to which you are so much affected, and if time will serve, I will beg your favour for a further enlargement of some of those several heads of which I have spoken. But no more at present.
VENA. Well Sir, and I will now take my turn, and will first begin with a commendation of the earth, as you have done most excellently of the Air, the Earth being that Element upon which I drive my pleasant wholesome hungry trade. The Earth is a solid, settled Element; an Element most universally beneficial both to man and beast; to men who have their several Recreations upon it, as Horse-races, Hunting, sweet smells, pleasant walks. The earth feeds man, and all those several beasts that both feed him, and afford him recreation: What pleasure doth man take in hunting the stately Stag, the generous Buck, the Wild Boar, the cunning Otter, the crafty Fox, and the fearful Hare? And if I may descend to a lower Game, what pleasure is it sometimes with Gins to betray the very vermine of the earth? as namely the Fichat, the Fulimart, the Feret, the Pole-cat, the Mouldwarp, and the like creatures that live upon the face, and within the bowels of the earth. How doth the earth bring forth herbs, flowers and fruits, both for physick and the pleasure of mankind? and above all, to me at least, the fruitful Vine, of which when I drink moderately, it clears my brain, chears my heart, and sharpens my wit. How could Cleopatra have feasted Mark Antony with eight Wild Boars roasted whole at one Supper, and other meat suitable, if the earth had not been a bountiful mother? But to pass by the mighty Elephant, which the earth breeds and nourisheth, and descend to the least of creatures, how doth the earth afford us a doctrinal example in the little Pismire, who in the Summer provides and layes up her Winter-provision, and teaches man to do the like? The earth feeds and carries those horses that carry us. If I would be prodigal of my time and your patience, what might not I say in commendations of the earth? That puts limits to the proud and raging Sea, and by that means preserves both man and beast, that it destroyes them not; as we see it daily doth those that venture upon the sea, and are there ship wreckt, drowned, and left to feed Haddocks; when we that are so wise as to keep ourselves on earth, walk, and talk, and live, and eat, and drink, and go a hunting: of which recreation I will say a little, and then leave Mr. Piscator to the commendation of Angling.
Hunting is a game for Princes and noble persons; it hath been highly prized in all Ages; it was one of the qualifications that Zenophon bestowed on his Cyrus, that he was a Hunter of wild beasts. Hunting trains up the younger Nobility to the use of manly exercises in their riper age. What more manly exercise than hunting the Wild Bore, the Stag, the Buck, the Fox, or the Hare? How doth it preserve health, and increase strength and activity?
And for the Dogs that we use, who can commend their excellency to that height which they deserve? How perfect is the Hound at smelling, who never leaves or forsakes his sent, but follows it thorow so many changes and varieties of other sents, even over and in the water, and into the earth? What musique doth a pack of Dogs then make to any man, whose heart and ears are so happy as to be set to the tune of such instruments? How will a right Greyhound fix his eye on the best Buck in a heard, single him out and follow him, and him onely through a whole herd of Rascal game, and still know and kill him? For my Hounds I know the language of them, and they know the language and meaning of one another as perfectly as we know the voices of those with whom we discourse daily.
I might enlarge myself in the commendation of Hunting, and of the noble Hound especially, as also of the docibleness of dogs in general; and I might make many observations of Land-creatures, that for composition, order, figure and constitution, approach nearest to the compleatness and understanding of man; especially of those creatures which Moses in the Law permitted to the Jews (which have cloven hoofs, and chew the Cud), which I shall forbear to name, because I will not be so uncivil to Mr. Piscator, as not to allow him a time for the commendation of Angling, which he calls an Art, but doubtless tis an easie one: and Mr. Auceps, I doubt we shall hear a watry discourse of it; but I hope twill not be a long one.
AUC. And I hope so too, though I fear it will.
PISC. Gentlemen, let not prejudice prepossesse you. I confesse my discourse is like to prove suitable to my Recreation, calm and quiet; we seldome take the name of God into our mouths, but it is either to praise him or pray to him; if others use it vainly in the midst of their recreations, so vainly as if they meant to conjure, I must tell you it is neither our fault nor our custom; we, we protest against it. But, pray remember I accuse no body; for as I would not make a watry discourse, so I would not put too much vinegar into it, nor would I raise the reputation of my own Art by the diminution or ruine of anothers. And so much for the Prologue to what I mean to say.
And now for the Water, the Element that I trade in. The water is the eldest daughter of the Creation, the Element upon which the Spirit of God did first move, the Element which God commanded to bring forth living creatures abundantly; and without which those that inhabit the Land, even all creatures that have breath in their nostrils must suddenly return to putrefaction. Moses the great Law-giver and chief Philosopher, skilled in all the learning of the Egyptians, who was called the friend of God, and knew the mind of the Almighty, names this element the first in the Creation; this is the element upon which the Spirit of God did first move, and is the chief Ingredient in the Creation; Many Philosophers have made it to comprehend all the other Elements, but most allow it the chiefest in the mixtion of all living creatures.
There be that profess to believe that all bodies are made of water, and may be reduced back again to water onely: they endeavour to demonstrate it thus:
Take a Willow (or any like speedy growing plant) newly rooted in a box or barrel full of earth, weigh them all together exactly when the tree begins to grow, and then weigh all together after the tree is increased from its first rooting to weigh an hundred pound weight more than when it was first rooted and weighed; and you shall find this augment of the tree to be without the diminution of one dram of the earth. Hence they infer this increase of wood to be from water of rain, or from dew, and not to be from any other Element. And they affirm, they can reduce this wood back again to water; and they affirm also the same may be done in any animal or vegetable. And this I take to be a fair testimony of the excellency of my element of water.
The Water is more productive than the Earth. Nay, the earth hath no fruitfulness without showers or dews; all the herbs, and flowers, and fruit are produced and thrive by the water; and the very Minerals are fed by streams that run under ground, whose natural course carries them to the tops of many high mountains, as we see by several springs breaking forth on the tops of the highest hills, and this is also witnessed by the daily tryal and testimony of several Miners.
Nay, the increase of those creatures that are bred and fed in the water, are not onely more and more miraculous, but more advantagious to man, not onely for the lengthning of his life, but for the preventing of sicknesse; for tis observed by the most learned Physicians, that the casting off of Lent and other Fish-dayes (which hath not onely given the Lie to so many learned, pious, wise Founders of Colledges, for which we should be ashamed) hath doubtless been the chief cause of those many putride, shaking, intermitting Agues, unto which this Nation of ours is now more subject than those wiser Countries that feed on Herbs, Sallets, and plenty of Fish; of which it is observed in Story, that the greatest part of the world now do. And it may be fit to remember that Moses (Lev. 11. 9. Deut. 14. 9.) appointed Fish to be the chief diet for the best Common-wealth that ever yet was.
And it is observable not onely that there are Fish, (as namely the Whale) three times as big as the mighty Elephant, that is so fierce in battel; but that the mightiest Feasts have been of Fish. The Romans in the height of their glory have made Fish the mistress of all their entertainments; they have had Musick to usher in their Sturgeons, Lampreyes, and Mullet, which they would purchase at rates rather to be wondred at than believed. He that shall view the Writings of Macrobius or Varro, may be confirmed and informed of this, and of the incredible value of their Fish, and Fish-ponds.
But, Gentlemen, I have almost lost my self, which I confess I may easily do in this Philosophical Discourse; I met with most of it very lately (and I hope happily) in a conference with a most learned Physician, a dear Friend, that loves both me and my Art of Angling. But however I will wade no deeper in these mysterious Arguments, but pass to such Observations as I can manage with more pleasure, and less fear of running into error. But I must not yet forsake the Waters, by whose help we have so many known advantages.
And first (to passe by the miraculous cures of our known Baths) how advantagious is the Sea for our daily Traffique, without which we could not now subsist? How does it not onely furnish us with food and physick for the bodies, but with such observations for the mind as ingenious persons would not want?
How ignorant had we been of the beauty of Florence, of the Monuments, Urns, and Rarities that yet remain in, and near unto old and new Rome (so many as it is said will take up a years time to view, and afford to each but a convenient consideration) and therefore it is not to be wondred at, that so learned and devout a Father as St. Jerome, after his wish to have seen Christ in the flesh, and to have heard St. Paul preach, makes his third wish to have seen Rome in her glory; and that beauty is not yet all lost, for what pleasure is it to see the Monuments of Livy, the choicest of the Historians; of Tully, the best of Orators; and to see the Bay-trees that now grow out of the very Tomb of Virgil? These to any that love Learning. But what pleasure is it to a devout Christian to see there the humble house in which Saint Paul was content to dwell; and to view the many rich Statues that are there made in honour of his memory? nay, to see the very place in which Saint Peter and he lie buried together? These are in and near to Rome. And how much more doth it please the pious curiosity of a Christian to see that place, on which the blessed Saviour of the world was pleased to humble himself, and to take our nature upon him, and to converse with men; to see Mount Sion, Jerusalem, and the very Sepulchre of our Jesus? How may it beget and heighten the zeal of a Christian to see the Devotions that are daily paid to him at that place? Gentlemen, lest I forget my self I will stop here, and remember you, that but for my Element of water the Inhabitants of this poor Island must remain ignorant that such things have yet a being.
Gentlemen, I might both enlarge and lose myself in such like Arguments; I might tell you that Almighty God is said to have spoken to a Fish, but never to a Beast; that he hath made a Whale a Ship to carry and set his prophet Jonah safe on the appointed shore. Of these I might speake, but I must in manners break off, for I see Theobalds house. I cry you mercy for being so long, and thank you for your patience.
AUC. Sir, my pardon is easily granted you: I except against nothing that you have said, neverthelesse I must part with you at this Park-wall, for which I am very sorry; but I assure you Mr. Piscator, I now part with you full of good thoughts, not onely of your self, but your Recreation. And so Gentlemen, God keep you both.
PISC. Well, now Mr. Venator you shall neither want time nor my attention to hear you enlarge your Discourse concerning Hunting.
VENA. Not I Sir, I remember you said that Angling it self was of great Antiquity, and a perfect Art, and an Art not easily attained to; and you have so won upon me in your former discourse, that I am very desirous to hear what you can say further concerning those particulars.
PISC. Sir, I did say so, and I doubt not but if you and I did converse together but a few hours, to leave you possest with the same high and happy thoughts that now possess me of it; not onely of the Antiquity of Angling, but that it deserves commendations, and that it is an Art, and an Art worthy the knowledge and practise of a wise man.
VENA. Pray Sir speak of them what you think fit; for we have yet five miles to the Thatcht-Houe, during which walk I dare promise you my patience and diligent attention shall not be wanting. And if you shall make that to appear which you have undertaken, first, that it is an Art, and an Art worth the learning, I shall beg that I may attend you a day or two a fishing, and that I may become your Scholar, and be instructed in the Art it self which you so much magnifie.
PISC. O Sir, doubt not but that Angling is an Art, and an Art worth your learning: the Question is rather whether you be capable of learning it? for Angling is somewhat like Poetry, men are to be born so: I mean, with inclinations to it, though both may be heightned by practice and experience: but he that hopes to be a good Angler must not onely bring an inquiring, searching, observing wit, but he must bring a large measure of hope and patience, and a love and propensity to the Art it self; but having once got and practisd it, then doubt not but Angling will prove to be so pleasant, that it will prove like Vertue, a reward to it self.
VENA. Sir, I am now become so full of expectation that I long much to have you proceed, and in the order that you propose.
PISC. Then first, for the antiquity of Angling, of which I shall not say much, but onely this; Some say it is as ancient as Deucalions Flood: others, that Belus, who was the first Inventor of Godly and vertuous Recreations, was the first Inventor of Angling: and some others say (for former times have had their disquisitions about the Antiquity of it) that Seth, one of the sons of Adam, taught it to his Sons, and that by them it was derived to posterity: others say, that he left it ingraven on those pillars which he erected, and trusted to preserve the knowledge of the Mathematicks, Musick, and the rest of that precious knowledge, and those useful Arts which by Gods appointment or allowance and his noble industry were thereby preserved from perishing in Noahs flood.
These, Sir, have been the opinions of several men, that have possibly endeavoured to make Angling more ancient than is needful, or may well be warranted; but for my part, I shall content my self in telling you that Angling is much more ancient than the Incarnation of our Saviour; for in the Prophet Amos mention is made of fish-hooks; and in the Book of Job (which was long before the days of Amos, for that book is said to be writ by Moses) mention is made also of Fish-hooks, which must imply Anglers in those times.
But my worthy friend, as I would rather prove my self a Gentleman by being learned, and humble, valiant, and inoffensive, vertuous, and communicable, than by any fond ostentation of riches, or wanting these vertues my self, boast that these were in my Ancestors (and yet I grant that where a noble and ancient descent and such merits meet in any man, it is a double dignification of that person:) So if this Antiquity of Angling (which for my part I have not forced) shall like an ancient family, be either an honour or an ornament to this vertuous Art which I profess to love and practice, I shall be the gladder that I made an accidental mention of the antiquity of it; of which I shall say no more but proceed to that just commendation which I think it deserves.
And for that I shall tell you, that in ancient times a debate hath risen (and it remains yet unresolved) Whether the happiness of man in this world doth consist more in Contemplation or action.
Concerning which some have endeavoured to maintain their opinion of the first, by saying, That the nearer we Mortals come to God by way of imitation, the more happy we are. And they say, That God enjoys himself onely by a contemplation of his own infinitenesse, Eternity, Power and Goodness, and the like. And upon this ground many Cloysteral men of great learning and devotion prefer Contemplation before Action. And many of the Fathers seem to approve this opinion, as may appear in their Commentaries upon the words of our Saviour to Martha, Luke 10. 41, 42.
And on the contrary, there want not men of equal authority and credit, that prefer action to be the more excellent, as namely, experiments in Physick, and the application of it, both for the ease and prolongation of mans life; by which each man is enabled to act and do good to others; either to serve his Countrey, or do good to particular persons; and they say also, That action is Doctrinal, and teaches both art and vertue, and is a maintainer of humane society; and for these and other like reasons to be preferred before contemplation.
Concerning which two opinions I shall forbear to add a third, by declaring my own, and rest my self contented in telling you (my very worthy friend) that both these meet together, and do most properly belong to the most honest, ingenuous, quiet, and harmlesse art of Angling.
And first, I shall tell you what some have observed, (and I have found it to be a real truth) that the very sitting by the Rivers side is not onely the quietest and fittest place for contemplation, but will invite an Angler to it: and this seems to be maintained by the learned Pet. du Moline, who (in his Discourse of the Fulfilling of Prophecies) observes, that when God intended to reveal any future events or high notions to his Prophets, he then carried them either to the Deserts or the Sea-shore, that having so separated them from amidst the press of people, and businesse, and the cares of the world, he might settle their minds in a quiet repose, and there make them fit for Revelation.
And this seems also to be intimated by the Children of Israel (Psal. 137) who having in a sad condition banished all mirth and musique from their pensive hearts, and having hung up their then mute Harps upon the Willow-trees growing by the Rivers of BabyIon, sate down upon those banks bemoaning the ruines of Sion, and contemplating their own sad condition.
And an ingenuous Spaniard sayes, That Rivers and the Inhabitants of the watry Element were made for wise men to contemplate, and fools to passe by without consideration. And though I will not rank myself in the number of the first, yet give me leave to free my self from the last, by offering to you a short contemplation, first of Rivers, and then of Fish, concerning which I doubt not but to give you many observations that will appear very considerable: I am sure they have appeared so to me, and made many an hour passe away more pleasantly, as I have sate quietly on a flowery Bank by a calm River, and contemplated what I shall now relate to you.
And first concerning Rivers, there be divers wonders reported of them by Authors of such credit, that we need not deny them an Historical Faith.
As namely of a River in Epirus, that puts out any lighted Torch, and kindles any Torch that was not lighted. Some Waters being drunk cause madnesse, some drunkennesse, and some laughter to death. The River Selarus in a few hours turns a rod or wand to be stone: and our Cambden mentions the like in England, and the like in Lochmere in Ireland. There is also a River in Arabia, of which all the sheep that drink thereof have their wool turned into a Vermillion colour. And one of no lesse credit than Aristotle tells us of a merry river (the river Elusina) that dances at the noise of musique, for with musique it bubbles, dances and grows sandy, and so continues till the musique ceases, but then it presently returns to its wonted calmness and clearness. And Cambden tells us of a Well near to Kerby in Westmoreland, that ebbs and flows several times every day: and he tells us of a river in Surry (it is called Mole), that after it has run several miles, being opposed by hills, finds or makes itself a way under ground, and breaks out again so far off, that the Inhabitants thereabout boast (as the Spaniards do of their River Anus) that they feed divers flocks of sheep upon a Bridge. And, lastly, for I would not tire your patience, one of no lesse authority than Josephus that learned Jew, tells us of a River in Judea, that runs swiftly all the six days of the week, and stands still and rests all their Sabbath.
But, Sir, lest this Discourse may seem tedious, I shall give it a sweet conclusion out of that holy Poet Mr. George Herbert his Divine Contemplation on Gods Providence:
Lord, who hath praise enough, nay, who hath any?
None can express thy works, but he that knows them,
And none can know thy works, they are so many,
And so compleat, but onely he that ows them.
We all acknowledge both thy power and love
To be exact, transcendent and divine;
Who dost so strangely and so sweetly move,
Whilst all things have their end, yet none but thine.
Wherefore, most sacred Spirit, I here present
For me, and all my fellows praise to thee;
And just it is that I should pay the rent,
Because the benefit accrues to me.
And as concerning fish, in that Psalm (Psal. 104) wherein for height of Poetry and Wonders the Prophet David seems even to exceed himself, how doth he there express himself in choice Metaphors, even to the amazement of a contemplative Reader, concerning the Sea, the Rivers, and the Fish therein contained? And the great Naturalist Pliny sayes, That Natures great and wonderful power is more demonstrated in the Sea than on the Land. And this may appear by the numerous and various creatures, inhabiting both in and about that Element; as to the Readers of Gesner, Randeletius, Pliny, Ausonius, Aristotle, and others, may be demonstrated. But I will sweeten this Discourse also out of a Contemplation in Divine Dabartas, who sayes,
God quickned in the sea and in the rivers,
So many fishes of so many features,
That in the waters we may see all creatures,
Even all that on the earth is to be found,
As if the world were in deep waters drownd.
For seas (as well as skies) have Sun, Moon, Stars;
(As well as air) Swallows, Rooks, and Stares;
(As well as earth) Vines, Roses, Nettles, Melons,
Mushrooms, Pinks, Gilliflowers, and many millions
Of other plants, more rare, more strange than these,
As very fishes living in the seas:
Wolves, Urchins, Lions, Elephants, and Dogs;
Yea, Men and Maids, and which I most admire,
The mitred Bishop, and the cowled Fryer.
Of which, examples but a few years since,
Were shown the Norway and Polonian prince.
These seem to be wonders, but have had so many confirmations from men of learning and credit, that you need not doubt them; nor are the number, nor the various shapes of fishes, more strange or more fit for contemplation, than their different natures, inclinations and actions; concerning which I shall beg your patient ear a little longer.
The Cuttle-fish will cast a long gut out of her throat, which (like as an Angler doth his line) she sendeth forth and pulleth in again at her pleasure, according as she sees some little fish come near to her; and the Cuttie-fish (being then hid in the gravel) lets the smaller fish nibble and bite the end of it, at which time she by little and little draws the smaller fish so near to her, that she may leap upon her, and then catches and devours her: and for this reason some have called this fish the Sea-angler.
And there is a fish called a Hermit, that at a certain age gets into a dead fishes shell, and like a Hermite dwells there alone, studying the wind and weather, and so turns her shell that she makes it defend her from the injuries that they would bring upon her.
There is also a fish called by Elian (in his 9. book of Living Creatures, Chap. 16) the Adonis, or Darling of the Sea; so called, because it is a loving and innocent fish, a fish that hurts nothing that hath life, and is at peace with all the numerous Inhabitants of that vast watery Element: and truly I think most Anglers are so disposed to most of mankind.
And there are also lustful and chast Fishes, of which I shall give you examples.
And first, what Dubartas says of a fish called the Sargus; which (because none can expresse it better than he does) I shall give you in his own words, supposing it shall not have the less credit for being Verse, for he hath gathered this, and other observations out of Authors that have been great and industrious searchers into the secrets of Nature.
The Adultrous Sargus doth not only change
Wifes every day in the deep streams, but (strange)
As if the honey of Sea-love delight
Could not suffice his ranging appetite,
Goes courting she-Goats on the grassie shore,
Horning their husbands that had horns before.
And the same Author writes concerning the Cantharus, that which you shall also hear in his own words.
But contrary, the constant Cantharus,
Is ever constant to his faithful Spouse,
In nuptial duties spending his chaste life,
Never loves any but his own dear wife.
Sir, but a little longer, and I have done.
VENA. Sir, take what libertie you think fit, for your discourse seems to be Musique, and charms me into an attention.
PISC. Why then Sir, I will take a little liberty to tell, or rather to remember you what is said of Turtle-Doves: First, that they silently plight their troth and marry; and that then, the Survivor scornes (as the Thracian women are said to do) to out-live his or her mate; and this is taken for such a truth, and if the Survivor shall ever couple with another, then not only the living, but the dead (be it either the He or the she) is denyed the name and honour of a true Turtle-dove.
And to parallel this Land Rarity, and teach mankind moral faithfulness, and to condemn those that talk of Religion, and yet come short of the moral faith of fish and fowl; Men that violate the Law affirmed by Saint Paul (Rom. 2. 14, 15) to be writ in their hearts, (and which he sayes, shall at the last day condemn and leave them without excuse), I pray hearken to what Dubartas sings, (for the hearing of such conjugal faithfulness, will be Musick to all chaste ears) and therefore I pray hearken to what Dubartas sings of the Mullet.
But for chaste love the Mullet hath no peer;
For, if the Fisher hath surprizd her pheer,
As mad with wo, to shore she followeth,
Prest to consort him both in life and death.
On the contrary, what shall I say of the House-Cock, which treads any Hen, and then (contrary to the Swan, the Partridge and Pigeon) takes no care to hatch, to feed or to cherish his own brood, but is senseless though they perish.
And tis considerable, that the Hen (which because she also takes any Cock, expects it not) who is sure the Chickens be her own, hath by a moral impression her care and affection to her own Brood more than doubled, even to such a height, that our Saviour in expressing his love to Jerusalem (Mat. 23. 37) quotes her for an example of tender affection, as his Father had done Job for a patern of patience.
And to parallel this Cock, there be divers fishes that cast their Spawn on flags or stones, and then leave it uncovered, and exposed to become a prey, and be devoured by Vermine or other fishes: but other fishes (as namely the Barbel) take such care for the preservation of their seed, that (unlike to the Cock or the Cuckoe) they mutually labour (both the Spawner and the Melter) to cover their Spawn with sand, or watch it, or hide it in some secret place unfrequented by Vermine or by any Fish but themselves.
Sir, these Examples may, to you and others, seem strange; but they are testified some by Aristotle, some by Pliny, some by Gesner, and by many others of credit, and are believed and known by divers, both of wisdom and experience, to be a Truth; and indeed are (as I said at the beginning) fit for the contemplation of a most serious and a most pious man. And doubtless this made the Prophet David say, They that occupy themselves in deep waters see the wonderful works of God: indeed such wonders and pleasures too as the land affords not.
And that they be fit for the contemplation of the most prudent, and pious, and peaceable men, seems to be testifyed by the practice of so many devout and contemplative men, as the Patriarchs and Prophets of old, and of the Apostles of our Saviour in these later times; of which twelve he chose four that were Fishermen, whom he inspired and sent to publish his blessed Will to the Gentiles, freedom from the incumbrances of the Law, and a new way to everlasting life; this was the imployment of these Fishermen. Concerning which choice, some have made these Observations.
First, that he never reproved these for their Imployment or Calling, as he did the Scribes and the Moneychangers. And secondly, he found that the hearts of such men by nature were fitted for contemplation and quietnesse; men of mild, and sweet, and peaceable spirits, as indeed most Anglers are: these men our blessed Saviour (who is observed to love to plant grace in good natures), though nothing be too hard for him, yet these men he chose to call from their irreprovable imployment of Fishing, and gave them grace to be his Disciples, and to follow him. I say four of twelve.
And it is observable, that it was our Saviours will, that these our four Fishermen should have a priority of nomination in the catalogue of his twelve Apostles, (Mat. 10) as namely first St. Peter, St. Andrew, St. James and St. John, and then the rest in their order.
And it is yet more observable, that when our blessed Saviour went up into the Mount, when he left the rest of his Disciples, and chose onely three to bear him company at his Transfiguration, that those three were all Fishermen. And it is to be believed, that all the other Apostles, after they betook themselves to follow Christ, betook themselves to be Fishermen too; for it is certain that the greater number of them were found together a Fishing by Jesus after his Resurrection, as is recorded in the 21 Chapter of St. Johns Gospel.
And since I have your promise to hear me with patience, I will take a liberty to look back upon an observation that hath been made by an ingenuous and learned man, who observes that God hath been pleased to allow those, whom he himself hath appointed to writ his holy Will in holy Writ, yet to express his Will in such Metaphors as their former affections or practice had inclined them to; and he brings Solomon for an example, who before his conversion was remarkably carnally-amorous; and after by Gods appointment writ that spiritual, holy, amorous Love-song (the Cantides) betwixt God and his Church, (in which he sayes she had Eyes like the fish-pools of Heshbon).
And if this hold in reason as I see none to the contrary, then it may be probably concluded, that Moses (whom, I told you before, writ the Book of Job) and the Prophet Amos, who was a Shepherd, were both Anglers, for you shall in all the Old Testament find Fish-hooks, I think but twice mentioned, namely, by meek Moses the friend of God, and by the humble Prophet Amos.
Concerning which last, namely the Prophet Amos, I shall make but this Observation, That he that shall read the humble, lowly, plain style of that Prophet, and compare it with the high-glorious, eloquent style of the Prophet Isaiah (though they be both equally true) may easily believe him to be, not only a Shepherd, but a good-naturd, plain Fisher-man.
Which I do the rather believe, by comparing the affectionate, loving, lowly, humble Epistles of S. Peter, S. James and S. John, whom we know were all Fishers, with the glorious language and high Metaphors of S. Paul, who we may believe was not.
And for the lawfulness of Fishing: it may very well be maintained by our Saviours bidding St. Peter cast his hook into the water and catch a Fish, for money to pay Tribute to Caesar. And let me tell you, that angling is of high esteem, and of much use in other Nations. He that reads the Voyages of Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, shall find that there he declares to have found a King and several Priests a Fishing.
And he that reads Plutarch shall find that Angling was not contemptible in the dayes of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and that they in the midst of their wonderful glory used Angling as a principal recreation. And let me tell you, that in the Scripture Angling is alwayes taken in the best sense; and that though hunting may be sometimes so taken, yet it is but seldom to be so understood. And let me adde this more, he that views the ancient Ecclesiastical Canons, shall find Hunting to be forbidden to Church-men, as being a toilsom, perplexing Recreation; and shall find angling allowed to Clergy-men, as being a harmlesse Recreation, a recreation that invites them to contemplation and quietness.
I might here enlarge myself, by telling you what commendations our learned Perkins bestowes on Angling: and how dear a lover, and great a practiser of it our learned Doctor Whitaker was, as indeed many others of great note have been. But I will content my self with two memorable men, that lived neer to our own time, whom I also take to have been ornaments to the Art of Angling.
The first is Doctor Nowel sometimes Dean of the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in London, where his Monument stands yet undefaced; a man that in the Reformation of Queen Elizabeth (not that of Henry the VIII) was so noted for his meek spirit, deep learning, prudence and piety, that the then Parliament and Convocation both, chose, injoyned and trusted him to be the man to make a Catechism for publick use, such a one as should stand as a rule for faith and manners to their posterity. And the good old man (though he was very learned, yet knowing that God leads us not to heaven by many nor by hard questions) like an honest Angler, made that good, plain, unperplext Catechism which is printed with our good old Service Book. I say, this good man was a dear lover, and constant practicer of Angling, as any Age can produce; and his custome was to spend besides his fixt hours of prayer (those hours which by command of the Church were enjoyned the Clergy, and voluntarily dedicated to devotion by many Primitive Christians): besides those hours, this good man was observed to spend a tenth part of his time in Angling; and also (for I have conversed with those which have conversed with him) to bestow a tenth part of his Revenue, and usually all his fish, amongst the poor that inhabited near to those Rivers in which it was caught: saying often, That charity gave life to Religion: and at his return to his house would praise God he had spent that day free from worldly trouble; both harmlessly, and in a recreation that became a Church-man. And this good man was well content, if not desirous, that posterity should know he was an Angler, as may appear by his Picture, now to be seen, and carefully kept in Brasenose Colledge (to which he was a liberal benefactor), in which Picture he is drawn leaning on a Desk with his Bible before him, and on one hand of him his lines, hooks, and other tackling lying in a round; and on his other hand is his Angle-rods of several sorts; and by them this is written, That he died. 13 Feb. 1601, being aged 95 years, 44 of which he had been Dean of St. Pauls Church; and that his age had neither impaird his hearing, nor dimmd his eyes, nor weaknd his memory, nor made any of the faculties of his mind weak or uselesse. Tis said that angling and temperance were great causes of these blessings, and I wish the like to all that imitate him, and love the memory of so good a man.
My next and last example shall be that undervaluer of money, the late Provost of Eton Colledge, Sir Henry Wotton (a man with whom I have often flshd and conversd), a man whose foreign Imployments, in the service of this Nation, and whose experience, learning, wit and chearfulness made his company to be esteemed one of the delights of mankind; this man, whose very approbation of angling were sufficient to convince any modest censurer of it, this man was also a most dear lover, and a frequent practiser of the art of angling; of which he would say, Twas an imployment for his idle time, which was then not idlely spent: for angling was after tedious Study, a rest to his mind, a cheerer of his spirits, a diverter of sadnesse, a calmer of unquiet thoughts, a moderator of passions, a procurer of contentednesse; and that it begot habits of peace and patience in those that professd and practisd it. Indeed, my friend, you will find angling to be like the vertue of Humility, which has a calmness of spirit, and a world of other blessings attending upon it.
Sir, this was the saying of that learned man, and I do easily believe that peace, and patience, and a calme content did cohabit in the cheerful heart of Sir Henry Wotton, because I know that when he was beyond seventy years of age, he made this description of a part of the present pleasure that possessd him, as he sate quietly in a Summers evening on a bank a Fishing; it is a description of the Spring, which, because it glides as soft and sweetly from his pen, as that river does at this time by which it was then made, I shall repeat it unto you.
This day dame Nature seemd in love:
The lusty sap began to move;
Fresh juice did stir th imbracing Vines,
And birds had drawn their valentines,
The jealous Trout, that low did lie,
Rose at a well-dissembled flie;
There stood my friend with patient skill,
Attending of his trembling quill.
Already were the eaves possest
With the swift Pilgrims dawbed nest:
The Groves already did rejoyce,
In Philomels triumphing voice:
The showers were short, the weather mild,
The morning fresh, the evening smild.
Jone takes her neat-rubd pail, and now
She trips to milk the sand-red Cow;
Where, for some sturdy foot-ball Swain,
Jone strokes a sillibub or twain.
The fields and gardens were beset
With Tulips, Crocus, Violet,
And now, though late, the modest Rose
Did more than half a blush disclose.
Thus all looks gay, and full of cheer,
To welcome the new-liveryd year.
These were the thoughts that then possest the undisturbed mind of Sir Henry Wotton. Will you hear the wish of another Angler, and the commendation of his happy life which he also sings in Verse? viz. Jo. Davors Esq.
Let me live harmlessly, and near the brink
Of Trent or Avon have a dwelling place;
Where I may see my quill or cork down sink
With eager bit of Pearch, or Bleak, or Dace;
And on the world and my Creator think,
Whilst some men strive, ill gotten goods t imbrace;
And others spend their time in base excesse
Of wine or worse, in war and wantonness.
Let them that list, these pastimes still pursue,
And on such pleasing fancies feed their fill,
So I the fields and Meadowes green may view,
And daily by fresh Rivers walk at will,
Among the Daisies and the Violets blue.
Red Hiacynth, and yellow Daffadil,
Purple Narcissus like the morning rayes,
Pale Gandergrasse, and azure Culverkayes.
I count it higher pleasure to behold
The stately compasse of the lofty skie,
And in the midst thereof (like burning gold)
The flaming Chariot of the worlds great eye,
The watry cloudes that in the air up rold,
With sundry kinds of painted colours flie;
And fair Aurora lifting up her head,
Still blushing, rise from old Tithonius bed.
The hills and mountains raised from the plains,
The plains extended level with the ground,
The grounds divided into sundry vains,
The veins inclosd with rivers running round;
These rivers making way through natures chains
With headlong course, into the sea profound;
The raging sea, beneath the values low,
Where lakes and rils and rivulets do flow.
The lofty woods, the forrests wide and long
Adornd with leaves and branches fresh and green,
In whose cool bowres the birds with many a song
Do welcome with their Quire the Summers Queen;
The Meadowes fair, where Floras gifts among
Are intermixt, with verdant grasse between.
The silver-scaled fish that softly swim
Within the sweet brooks crystal watry stream.
All these, and many more of his Creation,
That made the Heavens, the Angler oft doth see,
Taking therein no little delectation,
To think how strange, how wonderful they be;
Framing thereof an inward contemplation,
To set his heart from other fancies free;
And whilst he looks on these with joyful eye,
His mind is wrapt above the starry Skie.
Sir I am glad my memory has not lost these last Verses, because they are somewhat more pleasant and more sutable to May-Day, then my harsh Discourse: and I am glad your patience hath held out so long, as to hear them and me: for both together have brought us within the sight of the Thatcht house: and I must be your Debtor (if you think it worth your attention) for the rest of my promised discourse, till some other opportunity, and a like time of leisure.
VENA. Sir, you have Angled me on with much pleasure to the Thatcht house: and I now find your words true That good company makes the way seem short, for trust me, Sir, I thought we had wanted three miles of this House till you shewed it to me: but now we are at it, wel turn into it, and refresh our selves with a cup of drink and a little rest.
PISC. Most gladly (Sir) and wel drink a civil cup to all the Otter Hunters that are to meet you to morrow.
VENA. That we will Sir, and to all the lovers of Angling too, of which number, I am now willing to be one my self, for by the help of your good discourse and company, I have put on new thoughts both of the Art of Angling, and of all that professe it: and if you will but meet me to morrow at the time and place appointed, and bestow one day with me and my friends in hunting the Otter, I will dedicate the next two dayes to wait upon you, and we two will for that time do nothing but angle, and talk of fish and fishing.
PISC. Tis a match, Sir, Il not fail you, God willing, to be at Amwel-hill tomorrow morning before Sunrising.