Project Canterbury

The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation

by Izaak Walton

Directions for mating of a Line, and for the colouring
of both Rod and Line.

PISC. Well, Scholar, I have held you too long about these cadis, and smaller fish, and rivers, and Fish-ponds, and my spirits are almost spent, and so I doubt is your patience; but being we are now almost at Tottenham, where I first met you, and where we are to part, I will lose no time, but give you a little direction how to make and order your Lines, and to colour the hair of which you make your Lines, for that is very needful to be known of an Angler; and also how to paint your Rod; especially your top, for a right grown top is a choice Commodity, and should be preserved from the water soaking into it, which makes it in wet weather to be heavy, and fish ill-favouredly, and not true, and also it rots quickly for want of painting: and I think a good top is worth preserving, or I had not taken care to keep a top above twenty years.

But first for your line.

First, note, That you are to take care, that your hair to be round and free from galls or scabs, or frets; for a well-chosen, even, clear, round hair, of a kind of glass-colour, will prove as strong as three uneven scabby hairs, that are ill chosen, and full of galls or unevenness. You shall seldom find a black hair but it is round, but many white are flat and uneven; therefore, if you get a lock of right, round, clear, glass-colour hair make much of it.

And for making your Line, observe this rule, First, let your hair be clean washt ere you go about to twist it: and then chuse not only the clearest hair for it, but hairs that be of an equal bigness, for such do usually stretch all together, and not break singly one by one, but all together.

When you have twisted your links lay them in water for a quarter of an hour, at least, and then twist them over again before you tie them into a Line; for those that do not so shall usually find their Lines to have a hair or two shrink, and be shorter than the rest at the first fishing with it, which is so much of the strength of the Line lost for want of first watering it, and then re-twisting it; and this is most visible in a seven-hair line, one which hath alwayes a black hair in the middle.

And for dying of your hairs do it thus:

Take a pint of strong Ale, half a pound of soot, and a little quantity of the juice of Walnut-tree leaves, and an equal quantity of Allome, put these together into a pot, or pan, or pipkin, and boil them half an hour, and having so done, let it cool, and being cold, put your hair into it, and there let it lie; it will turn your hair to be a kind of water or glass colour, or greenish, and the longer you let it lie, the deeper coloured it will be; you might be taught to make many other colours, but it is to little purpose; for doubtlesse the water or glass-coloured hair is the most choice and most useful for an Angler; but let it not be too green.

But if you desire to colour hair greener, then do it thus: Take a quart of small Ale, half a pound of Allome, then put these into a pan or pipkin, and your hair into it with them, then put it upon a fire and let it boil softly for half an hour, and then take out your hair, and let it dry, and having so done, then take a pottle of water, and put into it two handful of Mary-golds, and cover it with a tile (or what you think fit), and set it again on the Fire, where it is to boil softly for half an hour, about which time the scum will turn yellow, then put into it half a pound of Copperas beaten small, and with it the hair that you intend to colour, then let the hair be boiled softly till half the liquor be wasted, and then let it cool three or four hours with your hair in it: and you are to observe, that the more Copperas you put into it, the greener it will be, but doubtlesse the pale green is best: But if you desire yellow hair (which is onely good when the weeds rot), then put in the more Mary-golds, and abate most of the Copperas, or leave it out, and take a little Verdigreece instead of it.

This for colouring your hair. And as for painting your Rod, which must be in Oil, you must first make a size with glue and water, boiled together, until the glue be dissolved, and the size of a Lie-colour; then strike your size upon the wood with a Bristle, or a Brush or Pensil, whilst it is hot: that being quite dry, take white Lead, and a little red Lead, and a little cole black, so much as altogether will make an ash-colour; grind these all together with Linseed Oil, let it be thick, and lay it thin upon the wood with a Brush or Pensil, this do for the ground of any colour to lie upon wood.

For a Green.

Take Pink and Verdigreece, and grind them together in Linseed Oil, as thick as you can well grind it, then lay it smoothly on with your Brush, and drive it thin, once doing for the most part will serve, if you lay it well, and be sure your first colour be thoroughly dry before you lay on a second.

Well, Scholar, you now see Tottenham, and I am weary and therefore glad that we are so near it: and if I were to walk many more days with you, I could still be telling you more and more of the mysterious Art of Angling: But I will hope for another opportunity, and then I will acquaint you with many more, both necessary and true observations concerning fish and fishing: but now no more, let's turn into yonder Arbour, for it is a clean and cool place.
VENA. 'Tis a fair motion, and I will requite a part of your courtesies with a bottle of Sack, Milk, Oranges, and Sugar, which all put together, make a drink like Nectar, indeed too good for any body but us Anglers: and so Master, here is a full glasse to you of that liquor, and when you have pledged me, I will repeat the Verses which I promised you; it is a Copy printed amongst Sir Henry Wottons Verses, and doubtless made either by him, or by a lover of Angling: Come Master, now drink a glasse to me, and then I will pledge you, and fall to my repetition; it is a description of such Country-Recreations as I have enjoyed since I had the happiness to fall into your company.

Quivering fears, heart-tearing cares,
Anxious sighs, untimely tears,
Flye, flye to Courts,
Flye to fond worldlings sports,
Where strain'd Sardonick smiles are glosing still,
And grief is forc'd to laugh against her will.
Where mirth's but mummery,
And sorrows onely real be.

Flye from our Countrey-pastimes, flye,
Sad troops of humane misery,
Come serene looks,
Clear as the Christal Brooks,
Or the pure azur'd heaven that smiles to see
The rich attendance on our poverty;
Peace and a secure mind,
Which all men seek, we onely find.

Abused Mortals, did you know
Where joy, hearts-ease and comforts grow,
You'ld scorne proud Towers,
And seek them in these Bowers,
Where winds sometimes our woods perhaps may shake,
But blustring care could never tempest make,
Nor murmurs ere come nigh us,
Saving of fountains that glide by us.

Here's no fantastick Mask nor Dance,
But of our Kids that frisk and prance;
Nor wars are seen,
Unlesse upon the green
Two harmless Lambs are butting one the other,
Which done, both bleating, run each to his mother.
And wounds are never found,
Save what the plough-share gives the ground.

Here are no entraping baits
To hasten too too hasty fates,
Unlesse it be
The fond credulity
Of silly fish, which (worldling like) still look
Upon the bait, but never on the hook:
Nor envy, 'nlesse among
The birds for price of their sweet song.

Go, let the diving Negro seek
For Gems hid in some forlone creek:
We all pearls scorne,
Save what the dewy morne
Congeals upon each little spire of grasse,
Which carelesse shepherds beat down as they passe:
And gold ne're here appears,
Save what the yellow Ceres bears.

Blest silent groves, oh may you be
For ever mirths best nursery:
May pure contents
For ever pitch their tents
Upon these downs, these meads, these rocks, these mountains,
And Peace still slumber by these purling fountains:
Which we may every year
Meet when we come a fishing here.

PISC. Trust me (Scholar) I thank you heartily for these Verses, they be choicely good, and doubtless made by a lover of Angling: Come, now, drink a glass to me, and I will requite you with a very good Copy of Verses: it is a Farewell to the vanities of the World, and some say written by Sir Harry Wootton, who I told you was an excellent Angler. But let them be writ by whom they will, he that writ them had a brave soul, and must needs be possest with happy thoughts at the time of their composure:

Farewel ye gilded follies, pleasing troubles;
Farewell ye honour'd rags, ye glorious bubbles:
Fame's but a hollow eccho, Gold pure clay;
Honour the darling but of one short day.
Beauty (th' eyes idol) but a damask'd skin;
State but a golden prison, to live in,
And torture free-born minds; imbroydred Train
Meerly but pageants for proud swelling veins;
And Blood ally'd to Greatnesse is alone
Inherited, not purchas'd, nor our own.
Fame, Honour, Beauty, State, Train, Blood, and Birth
Are but the fading Blossoms of the earth.

I would be great, but that the Sun doth still
Level his rayes against the rising hill:
I would be high, but see the proudest Oak
Most subject to the rending Thunder-stroak:
I would be rich, but see men (too unkind)
Dig in the bowels of the richest mind:
I would be wise, but that I often see
The Fox suspected, whilest the Ass goes free:
I would be fair, but see the fair and proud
(Like the bright Sun) oft setting in a cloud.
I would be poor, but know the humble grasse
Still trampled on by each unworthy Asse:
Rich hated: wise suspected: scorn'd if poor:
Great fear'd: fair tempted: high still envy'd more:
I have wish'd all; but now I wish for neither;
Great, high, rich, wise, nor fair; poor Ile be rather,

Would the world now adopt me for her heir,
Would Beauties Queen entitle me the Fair,
Fame speak me Fortunes Minion: could I vie
Angels with India, with a speaking eye
Command bare heads, bow'd knees, strike Justice dumb
As well as blind and lame, or give a tongue
To stones by Epitaphs: be call'd great Master
In the loose Rhimes of every Poetaster:
Could I be more than any man that lives,
Great, fair, rich, wise, in all Superlatives:
Yet I more freely would these gifts resign,
Than ever fortune would have made them mine,
And hold one minute of this holy leasure
Beyond the riches of this empty pleasure.

Welcome pure thoughts, welcome ye silent Groves,
These guests, these courts my soul most dearly loves:
Now the wing'd people of the skie shall sing
My cheerful Anthems to the gladsom Spring:
A Pray'r-Book now shall be my looking-glass,
In which I will adore sweet Vertue's face.
Here dwell no hateful looks, no Palace-cares,
No broken Vows dwell here, nor pale-fac'd Fears:
Then here I'll sit and sigh my hot loves folly,
And learn t' affect a holy melancholy,
And if Contentment be a stranger then,
I'll ne're look for it, but in heaven agen.

VENA. Well Master, these Verses be worthy to keep a room in every mans memory. I thank you for them; and I thank you for your many instructions, which (God willing) I will not forget: and as St. Austin in his Confessions (book 4. chap. 3.) commemorates the kindness of his friend Verecundus, for lending him and his companion a Country-house, because there they rested themselves from the troubles of the world; so I having had the like advantage, both by your conversation, and the Art you have taught me, ought ever to do the like: for indeed your company and discourse have been so useful and pleasant, that I may truly say, I have only lived since I enjoyed them, and turned Angler, and not before. Nevertheless, here I must part with you, here in this now sad place where I was so happy as first to meet you; But I shall long for the ninth of May, for then I hope again to enjoy your beloved company, at the appointed time and place. And now I wish for some somniferous potion, that might force me to sleep away the intermitted time, which will passe away with me as tediously, as it does with men in sorrow; nevertheless I will make it as short as I can by my hopes and wishes. And, my good Master, I will not forget the doctrine which you told me Socrates taught his Scholars, That they should not think to be honoured so much for being Philosophers as to honour Philosophie by their vertuous lives. You advised me to the like concerning Angling, and I will endeavour to do so, and to live like those many worthy men, of which you made mention in the former part of your Discourse. This is my firm resolution, and as a pious man advised his friend, That to beget Mortification he should frequent Churches, and view Monuments, and Charnel-houses, and then and there consider, how many dead bones time had piled up at the gates of death. So when I would beget content, and increase confidence in the Power, and Wisdom, and Providence of Almighty God, I will walk the Meadows by some gliding stream, and there contemplate the Lilies that take no care, and those very many other various little living creatures that are not onely created but fed (man knowes not how) by the goodness of the God of Nature. This is my purpose, and so, Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. And let the blessing of St. Peters Master be with mine.

PISC. And upon all that are lovers of Vertue, and all that love to be quiet, and go a fishing.

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