Project Canterbury

The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation

by Izaak Walton

Is of nothing, or that which is nothing worth.

My purpose was to give you some direction concerning Roach and Dace, and some other inferiour Fish, which make the Angler excellent sport; for you know there is more pleasure in hunting the Hare than in eating her: but I will forbear at this time to say any more, because you see yonder comes our brother Peter and honest Coridon: but I will promise you that as you and I fish and walk tomorrow towards London, if I have now forgotten any thing that I can then remember, I will not keep it from you.

Well met, Gentlemen, this is lucky that we meet so just together at this very door. Come Hostess, where are you? is Supper ready? come, first give us drink, and be as quick as you can, for I believe we are all very hungry. Well, brother Peter and Coridon, to you both; come drink, and tell me what luck of fish: we two have caught but ten Trouts, of which my Scholar caught three; look here’s eight, and a brace we gave away: we have had a most pleasant day for fishing and talking, and are returned home both weary and hungry, and now meat and rest will be pleasant.

PET. And Coridon and I have not had an unpleasant day, and yet I have caught but five Trouts: for indeed we went to a good honest Ale-house, and there we plaid at Shovel-board half the day; all the time that it rained we were there, and as merry as they that fished, and I am glad we are now with a dry house over our heads, for hark how it rains and blows. Come Hostess, give us more Ale, and our supper with what haste you may; and when we have sup’d, let us have your Song, Piscator, and the Ketch that your Scholar promised us, or else Coridon will be dogged.

PISC. Nay, I will not be worse than my word, you shall not want my Song, and I hope I shall be perfect in it.

VENA. And I hope the like for my Ketch, which I have already too, and therefore lets go merrily to supper, and then have a gentle touch at singing and drinking: but the last with moderation.

COR. Come, now for your Song, for we have fed heartily. Come Hostess, lay a few more sticks on the fire, and now sing when you will.

PISC. Well then, here’s to you Coridon, and now for my Song.

Oh the gallant Fishers life,
It is the best of any,
’Tis full of pleasure, void of strife,
And ’tis belov’d of many:
Other joyes
are but toyes,
only this
lawful is,
for our skill
breeds no ill,
but content and pleasure.

In a morning up we rise,
Ere Aurora’s peeping,
Drink a cup to wash our eyes,
Leave the sluggard sleeping:
Then we go
to and fro,
with our knacks
at our backs,
to such streams
as the Thames,
if we have the leasure.

When we pleas to walk abroad
For our recreation,
In the fields is our abode,
Full of delectation.
Where in a brook
with a book,
or a Lake,
fish we take;
there we sit,
for a bit,
till we fish intangle.

We have Gentles in a horn,
We have paste and worms too,
We can watch both night and morn,
Suffer rain and storms too:
None do here
use to swear,
oaths do fray
fish away,
we sit still,
and watch our quill;
Fishers must not rangle.

If the Suns excessive heat
Make our bodies swelter,
To an Osier hedge we get
For a friendly shelter,
Where in a dike
Pearch or Pike,
Roach or Dace
we do chase,
Bleak or Gudgion
without grudging,
we are still contented.

Or we sometimes pass an hour
Under a green Willow,
That defends us from a showre,
Making earth our pillow,
There we may
think and pray
before death
stops our breath:
other joyes
are but toyes,
and to be lamented.

Jo. Chalkhill.

VENA. Well sung, Master, this dayes fortune and pleasure, and this nights company and song, do all make me more and more in love with angling. Gentlemen, my Master left me alone for an hour this day, and I verily believe he retired himself from talking with me, that he might be so perfect in this song; was it not Master?

PISC. Yes indeed, for it is many Years since I learn’d it, and having forgotten a part of it, I was forced to patch it up by the help of mine own Invention, who am not excellent at Poetrie, as my part of the song may testifie: But of that I will say no more, lest you should think I mean by discommending it to beg your commendations of it. And therefore without replications lets hear your Ketch, Scholar, which I hope will be a good one, for you are both Musical, and have a good fancie to boot.

VENA. Marry and that you shall, and as freely as I would have my honest Master tell me some more secrets of fish and Fishing as we walk and fish towards London tomorrow. But Master, first let me tell you, that, that very hour which you were absent from me, I sate down under a Willow-tree by the water side, and considered what you had told me of the Owner of that pleasant Meadow in which you then left me; that he had a plentiful estate, and not a heart to think so; that he had at this time many Law-suits depending; and that they both damp’d his mirth, and took up so much of his time and thoughts, that he himself had not leisure to take the sweet content that I (who pretended no title to them) took in his fields; for I could there sit quietly, and looking on the water, see some Fishes sport themselves in the silver streams, others leaping at Flyes of several shapes and colours; looking on the Hills, could behold them spotted with Woods and Groves; looking down the Meadows, could see here a Boy gathering Lilies and Lady-smocks, and there a Girl cropping Culverkeyes and Cow-slips, all to make Garlands suitable to this present Moneth of May: these and many other Field-flowers, so perfumed the Air, that I thought that very Meadow like the Field in Sicily (of which Diodorus speaks) where the perfumes arising from the place, make all dogs that hunt in it, to fall off, and to lose their hottest sent. I say, as I thus sate joying in my own happy condition, and pitying this poor rich man, that owned this, and many other pleasant Groves and Meadows about me, I did thankfully remember what my Saviour said, that the meek possess the earth; or rather, they injoy what the other possess and injoy not; for Anglers and meek quiet-spirited-men, are free from those high, those restless thoughts which corrode the sweets of life; and they, and they onely can say as the Poet has happily exprest it:

Hail blest estate of lowliness!
Happy enjoyments of such minds,
As rich in self -contentednesse,
Can, like the reeds in roughest winds
By yielding make that blow but small
At which proud Oaks and Cedars fall.

There came also into my mind at that time, certain Verses in praise of a mean estate, and an humble mind, they were written by Phineas Fletcher: an excellent Divine, and an excellent Angler, and the Author of excellent Piscatory Eglogues, in which you shall see the picture of this good mans mind.

No empty hopes, no Courtly fears him fright,
No begging wants, his middle fortune bite,
But sweet content exiles both misery and spite.
His certain life, that never can deceive him,
Is full of thousand sweets, and rich content:
The smooth-leav’d Beeches in the field receive him,
With coolest shade, till noon-tides heat be spent:
His life is neither tost in boisterous Seas,
Or the vexatious world, or lost in slothful ease;
Pleas’d and ful blest he lives, when he his God can please.

His bed more safe than soft, yields quiet sleeps,
While by his side his faithful Spouse has place,
His little son into his bosom creeps,
The lively picture of his fathers face.
His bumble house, or poor state ne’re torment him,
Less he could like, if less his God had lent him,
And when he dies, green turfs do for a tomb content him.

Gentlemen, these were a part of the thoughts that then possest me, and I there made a conversion of a piece of an old Ketch, and added more to it, fitting them to be sung by us Anglers: come Master, you can sing well, you must sing a part of it as it is in this paper.


PET. I marry Sir, this is Musick indeed, this has cheer’d my heart, and made me to remember six Verses in praise of Musick, which I will speak to you instantly.

Musick miraculous Rhetorick, that speak’st sense
With out a tongue, excelling eloquence;
With what ease might thy errors be excus’d
Wert thou as truly lov’d as th’ art abus’d?
But though dull souls neglect, and some reprove thee,
I cannot hate thee, ’cause the Angels love thee.

PISC. Well remembred brother Peter, these Verses came seasonably. Come, we will all joyn together, mine Hoste and all, and sing my Scholars Ketch over again, and then each man drink the tother cup and to bed, and thank God we have a dry house over our heads.

PISC. Well now, good night to every body.

PET. And so say I.

VENA. And so say I.

COR. Good night to you all, and I thank you.

PISC. Good morrow brother Peter, and the like to you honest Coridon: Come, my Hostesse sayes there is seven shillings to pay, let’s each man drink a pot for his mornings draught, and lay down his two shillings, that so my Hostesse may not have occasion to repent her self of being so diligent, and using us so kindly.

PET. The motion is liked by every body, and so Hostesse, here’s your money: we Anglers are all beholding to you, it will not be long e’re I’ll see you again. And now, brother Piscator, I wish you and my brother your Scholar a fair day, and good fortune. Come Coridon, this is our way.

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