Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler

Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler, The Modern Library, New York, 1939.

Walton was born at Stafford on August 9, 1593. … the son of Jervis Walton, of whom nothing further is known except that he died in February 1596/7. Of Walton’s mother nothing is known, not even her name. (Geoffrey Keynes, The Life of Izaak Walton, 3)

His first marriage took place on December 27, 1626, his wife being Rachel Floud of Canterbury, through whom he became connected with the Cranmer family. … Rachel Walton lived for nearly fourteen years after her marriage and bore six children, but none of them survived infancy. Nothing further is known of Walton’s married life. Rachel Walton died in 1640, and six years later Walton married for the second time, … By her he had three children, a daughter and two sons, one of whom survived. Anne Walton lived for sixteen years after her marriage, dying at Worcester in 1662… (5-6)

Meanwhile, in 1664, Walton had left his house in Chancery Lane, because it was “dangerous for honest men to be there”, dangerous, that is, for a Royalist. There is no reason, however, for supposing that he left London, and it is probable that in 1650 he was living in Clerkenwell. (6)

Walton had published his Compleat Angler in 1653, and it had immediately become popular, so that several editions were sold in a few years. (7)

It does not seem to have occurred to Walton before 1683 that he might die, but at last, on August 9 of that year, his ninetieth birthday, he decided to make his will, (11)

Piscator: … my purpose is to bestow a day or two in helping to destroy some of those villainous vermin, for I hate them perfectly, because they love fish so well, or rather, because they destroy so much; (35)

Auceps: As first the Lark, when she means to rejoice, 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. (41)

Auceps: Nay, the smaller birds also do the like in their particular seasons, namely the Leverock, the Tit-lark, and little Linnet, and the honest Robin, that loves mankind both alive and dead. (41)

Auceps: There is also a little contemptible winged Creature [42] (an inhabitant of my Aerial Element) namely the laborious 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. (42-3)

Venator: 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. (45)

Piscator: 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 [55] … 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. (55-6)

Piscator: 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 Babylon, sate down upon those banks bemoaning the ruines of Sion, and contemplating their own sad condition. (56-7)

Piscator: 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 Cuttle-fish [note: Mount. Essayes: and others affirm this.] (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 little 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. (60)

Piscator: At 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 Adult’rous 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 raging appetite,
Goes courting she-Goats on the grassie shore,
Horning their husbands that had horns before. (61)

Piscator: On the contrary, what shall I say of the House-Cock, which treads any Hen, and then (contrary to the Swan, and Partridge and Pigeon) takes no care to hatch, to feed or to cherish his own brood, but is senseless though they perish. (63)

Piscator: 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 (thought they be both equally true) may easily believe him to be, not only a Shepherd, but a good-natur’d, 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. (66)

Piscator: 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 toilsome, perplexing Recreation; and shall find angling allowed to Clergy-men, as being a harmlesse Recreation, a recreation that invites them to contemplation and quietness. (67)

Piscator: … and his custome was to spend besides his fixt hours of prayer… 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. (68)

Piscator: 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 and worse, and war and wantonness. (71)

Venator: Why, Sir, what’s the skin worth?
Hunter: ’Tis work ten shillings to make gloves; the gloves of an Otter are the best fortification for your hands that can be thought on against wet weather.
Piscator: I pray, honest Huntsman, let me ask you a pleasant question, do you hunt a beast or a fish? (75)

Venator: …now all the dogs have her, some above and some under water; but now, now she’s tir’d, and past losing: come bring him to me, Sweet-lips. Look, ’tis a Bitch-Otter, and she has lately whelp’d, (76)

Piscator: And now to your question concerning your House, to speak truly, he is not to me a good companion: for most of his conceits were either Scripture-jests, or lascivious jests; for which I count no man witty; (79)

Piscator: having so done, put some sweet herbs into his belly, and then tye him with two or three splinters to a spit, and rost him, basted often with vinegar, or rather verjuice and butter, with good store of salt mixt with it. (84)

Piscator: Being thus used and drest presently, and not washt after he is gutted, (for note that lying long in water, and washing the blood out of the Fish after they by gutted, abates much of their sweetnesse) … Or you may dress the Chavender or Chub thus: / When you hav scaled him, and cut off his tail and fins, and washed him very clean, then chine or slit him through the middle, as a salt fish is usually cut, then give him three or four cuts or scotches with your knife, and broil him on Char-coal, or Wood-coal that are free from smoke, and all the time he is a-broyling baste him with the best sweet butter, and good store of salt mixt with it; and to this add a little Time cut exceeding small, or bruised into the butter. (85)

Piscator: You shall read in Seneca his natural Questions (Lib. 3, cap. 17) that the Ancients were so curious in the newnesse of their Fish, that that seemed not new enough that was not put alive into the guests hand; (90)

Piscator: … Sir George Hastings (an excellent Angler, and now with God), and he hath told me, he thought that trout but not for hunger but wantonness; (92-3)

Piscator: Now you are to know, that it is observed, that usually the best trouts are either red or yellow, though some (as the Fordidge trout) be white and yet good; (96)

Piscator: But turn out of the way a little, good Scholar, towards yonder high hedge: We’ll sit whilst this shower falls so gently upon the teeming earth, and gives yet a sweeter smell to the lovely flowers that adorn these verdant Meadowes. (98-9)

Piscator: … and sometimes I beguil’d time by viewing harmlesse Lambs, some leaping securely in the cool shade, whilst other sported themselves in the chearful Sun; (99)

Coridon: Oh the sweet contentment
The country-man doth find!
high trolollie lollie loe
high trolollie lee.
That quiet contemplation
possesseth all my mind:
Then care away,
And wend along with me. (108)

Coridon: The ploughman, though he labor hard,
Yet on the Holy-Day,
high trolollie lollie loe
high trolollie lee.
No Emperour so merrily
does pass his time away:
Then care away,
And wend along with me. (109)

Piscator: My hand alone my work can do,
So I can fish and study too. (111)

Piscator: But yet though while I fish, I fast;
I make good fortune my repast: (112)

Piscator: Now for Flies… and indeed too many either for me to name or for you to remember: and their breeding is so various and wonderful, that I might easily amaze my self, and tire you in a relation of them. (119)

Piscator: … those very many flies, worms, and little living creatures with which the Sun and Summer adorn and beautifie the River banks… (119)

Piscator: [regarding insects] Pliny holds an opinion, that many have their birth or being from a dew that in the Spring falls upon the leaves of trees; and that some kinds of them are from a dew left upon herbs or flowers; and others form a dew left upon Colworts or Cabbages: … And some affirm, that every plant has his particular flye or Caterpillar, which it breeds and feeds. [120] … But yet I shall tell you what Aldrovandus, our Topsel, and other say of the Palmerworm, or Caterpillar, That whereas others content themselves to feed on particular herbs or leaves, (for most think those very leaves that gave them life and shape, give them a particular feeding and nourishment, and that upon them they usually abide) yet he observes, that this is called a pilgrim or palmer-worm, for his very wandring life and various food; (120-1)

Piscator: … observation of Du Baratas:
God not contented to each kind to give,
And to infuse the vertue generative,
By his wise power made many creatures breed
Of lifelesse bodies without Venus deed.
So the cold humor breeds the Salamander,

In th’Icy Islands goslings hatcht of trees,
Whose fruitful leaves falling into the water,
Are turn’d (’tis known) to living fowls soon after. (123)

Piscator: … and before you begin to Angle, cast to have the wind on your back, and the Sun (if it shines) to be before you, and to Fish down the stream; and carry the point or top of your Rod downward, by which means the shadow of your self, and Rod too will be the least offensive to the Fish, for the sight of any shade amazes the Fish, … (128-9)

Piscator: Indeed my good Scholar, we may say of Angling, as Dr. Boteler said of Strawberries; Doubtlesse God could have made a better berry, but doubtlesse God never did; And so (if I might be Judge) God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than Angling. (137)

Piscator: Or with my Bryan, and a book,
Loyter long dayes near Shawford-brook;
There sit by him, and eat my meat,
There see the Sun both rise and set:
There bid good morning to next day,
There meditate my time away:
And angle on, and beg to have
A quiet passage to a welcome grave. (138-9)

Piscator: … affirmed by Sir Francis Bacon… as it is by that learned man, has made me to believe that Eeles unbed themselves, and stir at the noise of the Thunder, … (147)

Piscator: [Umber fish] Much more might be said both of the smell and taste, but I shall only tell you, that S. Ambrose the glorious Bishop of Milan (who liv’d when the Church kept Fasting days) calls him the flowre fish, or flowre of fishes, and that he was so far in love with him, that he would not let him pass without the honour of a long Discourse; but I must; and pass on to tell you how to take this dainty fish. (151)

Piscator: The mighty Luce or Pike is taken to be the Tyrant (as the Salmon is the King) of the fresh waters. ’Tis not to be doubted, but that they are bred some by generation, and some not: as namely, of a Weed called Pickerel-weed, unless learned Gesner be much mistaken; for he sayes, this weed and other glutinous matter, with the help of the Suns heat in some particular Moneths, some Ponds apted for it by nature, do become Pikes. (161)

Piscator: And it is observed, that the pike will eat venomous things (as some kinds of Frogs are) and yet live without being harmed by them… he never eats the venomous Frog, till he have first killed her, and then (as Ducks are observed to do to Frogs in Spawning time, at which time some Frogs are observed to be venomous) so throughly washt her, by tumbling her up and down in the water, that he may devour her without danger. (163)

Piscator: The pike is also observed to be a solitary, melancholly and a bold Fish: Melancholly, because he alwayes swimmes or rests himself alone, and never swimmes in sholes or with company, as Roach and Dace, and most other Fish do: And bold, because he fears not a shadow, or to see or be seen of any body, as the Trout and Chub, and all other Fish do. (164)

Piscator: Dubravius (a Bishop in Bohemia) : As he and the Bishop Thurzo were walking by a large Pond in Bohemia, they saw a Frog, when the Pike lay very sleepily and quiet by the shore side, leap upon his head, and the frog having exprest malice or anger by his swolne cheeks and staring eyes, did streatch out his legs and imbraced the Pikes head, and presently reached them to his eyes, tearing with them and his teeth those tender parts; the Pike moved with anguish, moves up and down the water, and rubs himself against weeds, and what ever he thought might quit him of his enemy; but all in vain, for the frog did continue to ride triumphantly, and bite and torment the Pike till his strength failed, and then he sunk with the Pike to the bottome of the water; then presently the frog appeared again at the top and croaked, and semed to rejoice like Conqueror, and then presently retired to her secret hole. The Bishop, that had beheld the battel, called his fishermen to fetch his nets, and by all means to get the Pike, that they might declare what had hapned: and the Pike was drawn forth, and both his eyes eaten out, at which when they began to wonder, the Fisherman wished them to forbear, and assured them he was certain that Pikes were often so served. (165-6)

Piscator: The Carp is the Queen of Rivers, a stately, a good, and a very subtil fish, that was not at first bred, nor hath been long in England, but it now naturalized. (175)

Piscator: Janus Dubravius has writ a Book of Fish and Fish-ponds, in which he saies, That … three or four Male-Carps will follow a Female, and that then she putting on a seeming coyness, they force her through weeds and flags, where she lets fall her Eggs or Spawn, which sticks fast to the weeds, an then they let fall their Melt upon it, … when the Spawner has weakened her self by doing that natural office, that two or three Melters have helped her from off the weeds, by bearing her up on both sides, and guarding her into the deep. And you may note, that though this may seem a curiosity not worth observing, yet others have judged it worth their time and costs to make Glasse-hives¬, and order them in such a manner as to see how Bees have bred and made their Honey-combs, and how they have obeyed their King, and governed their Common-wealth. (179-80)

Piscator: The Bream… He is very broad and forked tail, and his scales set in excellent order, (185)

Piscator: But though some do not, yet the French esteem this Fish highly, and to that end have this Proverb, He that hath Breams in his pond is able to bid his friend welcome. (186)

Piscator: But bite the Pearch will, and that very boldly: and as one has wittily observed, if there be twenty or forty in a hole, they may be at one standing all catch’d one after another; they being, as he saies, like the wicked of the world, not afraid though their fellows and companions perish in their sight. (198)

Piscator: And others say, that Eeles growing old, breed other Eeles out of the corruption of their own age, which Sir Francis Bacon sayes, exceeds not ten years. … But that Eeles may be bred as some worms, and some kind of Bees and Wasps are, either of dew, or out of the corruption of the earth, seems to be made probable by the Barnacles and young Goslings bred by the Suns heat, and the rotten planks of an old Ship, and hatched of trees; (202-3)

Piscator: It is said by Randeletius, that those Eeles that are bred in Rivers that relate to, or be nearer to the Sea, never return to the fresh waters (as the Salmon does alwayes desire to do) when they have once tasted the salt water; (204)

Piscator: But Scholar, there is a fish that they in Lancashire boast very much of, called a Char, taken there (and I think there only) in a Mere called, Winander Mere; a Mere, sayes Cambden, that is the largest in this Nation, being ten miles in length, and as smooth in the bottom as if it were paved with pollisht marble: this fish never exceeds fifteen or sixteen inches in length; and ’tis spotted like a Trout, and has scarce a bone but on the back: (209)

Piscator: But the Barbel, though he be of a fine shape, and looks big, yet he is not accounted the best fish to eat, (211)

Piscator: There is also a Bleak, or fresh-water-Sprat, a Fish that is ever in motion, and therefore called by some the River-Swallow; for just as you shall observe the Swallow to be most evenings in Summer ever in motion, making short and quick turnes when he flies to catch Flies in the aire (by which he lives), so does the Bleak at the top of the water. Ausonius would have him called Bleak from his whitish colour: his back is of a pleasant sad or Sea-water-green, his belly white and shining as the Mountain snow; … Or this Fish may be caught with a fine small artificial flie, which is to be of a very sad brown colour, and very small, and the hook answerable. (217-8)

Piscator: we sit still,
and watch our quill;
Fishers must not rangle.
(from Jo. Chalkhill. 222)

Piscator: 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:
(from Jo. Chalkhill. 222)

Venator: … 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; … 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; (223-4)

Piscator: Phineas Fletcher …
His life is neither tost in boisterous Seas,
Or the vexatious world, or lost in slothful ease;

His bed more safe than soft, yields sleeps,
While by his side his faithful Spouse has place,
His little son into his bosom creeps,
The lively picture of his father face. (225)

Piscator: And you may take notice, that as the Carp is accounted the Water-fox, for his cunning, so the Roach is accounted the Water-sheep for his simplicity or foolishness. (229)

Piscator: You are to cleanse your Pond if you intend either profit or pleasure, once every three or four Years (especially some Ponds) and then let them lie drie six or twelve moneths, both to kill the water-weeds, as Water-lillies, Candocks, Reate, and Bull-rushes, that breed there; and also that as these die for want of water, so grasse may grow on the Ponds bottom, which Carps will eat greedily in all the hot moneths. (251-2)

Venator: 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 glass to you of that liquor, (257)

Venator: Go, let the diving Negro seek
For Gems hid in some forlone [sic] 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: (259)

Piscator: a Farewell to the vanities of the World, and some say written by Sir Harry Wootton …
Beauty [’s] (th’ eyes idol) but a damask’d skin;
State but a golden prison, to live in,
And torture free-born minds; … (260)

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.

wise suspected… fair tempted… (261)

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:

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. (262)

Venator: 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 Lillies that take no care, and those very many other various little living creatures that are not only created but fed (man knows not how) by the goodness of the God of Nature. (263)


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