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Chapter 4. OBSERVATIONS OF THE NATURE AND BREEDING OF THE TROUT, AND HOW TO FISH FOR HIM. 
AND THE MILK-MAID'S SONG

PISCATOR. The Trout is a fish highly valued both in this and foreign nations. He may be justly said, as the old poet said of wine, and we English say of venison, to be a generous fish: a fish that is so like the buck that he also has his seasons; for it is observed, that he comes in and goes out of season with the stag and buck. Gesner says his name is of a German offspring, and says he is a fish that feeds clean and purely, in the swiftest streams, and on the hardest gravel; and that he may justly contend with all fresh-water fish, as the Mullet may with all sea-fish, for precedency and dainti­ness of taste, and that, being in right season, the most dainty palates have allowed precedency to him.

And before I go further in my discourse, let me tell you that you are to observe, that, as there be some barren does, that are good in summer, so there be some barren Trouts that are good in winter; but there are not many that are so, for usually they be in their perfection in the month of May, and decline with the buck, Now you are to take notice, that in several countries, as in Germany and in other parts, compared to ours, fish do differ much in their big­ ness, and shape, and other ways and so do Trouts. It is well known that in the Lake Leman, the Lake of Geneva, there are Trouts taken of three cubits long, as is affirmed by Gesner, a writer of good credit; and Mercator says, that Trouts that are taken in the Lake of Geneva are a great part of the merchandise of that famous city. And you are further to know, that there be certain waters that breed Trouts remarkable both for their number and smallness. I know a little brook in Kent that breeds them to a number incred­ible, and you may take them twenty or forty in an hour, but none greater than about the size of a gudgeon. There are also in divers rivers, especially that relate to, or be near to the sea, as Winchester, or the Thames about Windsor, a little Trout called a Samlet or Skegger-Trout, — in both which places I have caught twenty or forty at a standing, — that will bite as fast and as freely as minnows; these be by some taken to be young Salmons, but in those waters they never grow to be bigger than a herring.

There is also in Kent near to Canterbury a Trout called there a Fordidge Trout, a Trout that bears the name of the town where it is usually caught, that is accounted the rarest of fish; many of them near the bigness of a Salmon, but known by their different color, and in their best season they cut very white: and none of these have been known to be caught with an angle, unless it were one that was caught by Sir George Hastings, an excellent Angler, and now with God; and he hath told me, he thought that Trout bit not for hunger but wantonness; and is the rather to be believed, because both he then, and many others before him, have been curious to search into their bellies, what the food was by which they lived: and have found out nothing by which they might satisfy their curiosity.

Concerning which you are to take notice, that it is reported by good authors, that grasshoppers, and some fish, have no mouths, but are nourished and take breath by the porousness of their gills, man knows not how; and this may be believed, if we consider that, when the Raven hath hatched her eggs, she takes no further care, but leaves her young ones to the care of the God of nature, who is said in the Psalms (Psal. cxlvii. 9) "to feed the young ravens that call upon him." And they be kept alive, and fed by a dew, or worms that breed in their nests, or some other ways that we mortals know not; and this may be believed of the Fordidge Trout, which, as it is said of the Stork (Jere. viii. 7), that "he knows his season," so he knows his times, I think almost his days of coming into that river out of the sea; where he lives, and, it is like, feeds, nine months of the year, and fasts three in the river of Fordidge. And you are to note that those townsmen are very punctual in observing the time of beginning to fish for them; and boast much that their river affords a Trout that exceeds all others. And just so does Sussex boast of several fish; as namely, a Shelsey Cockle, a Chichester Lobster, an Arundel Mullet, and an Amerly Trout.

And now for some confirmation of the Fordidge Trout: you are to know that this Trout is thought to eat nothing in the fresh water; and it may be the better believed, because it is well known that swallows and bats and wagtails, which are called half-year birds, and not seen to fly in England for six months in the year, but about Michaelmas leave us for a hotter climate; yet some of them that have been left behind their fellows have been found, many thousands at a time, in hollow trees, or clay caves, where they have been observed to live and sleep out the whole winter without meat. And so Albertus observes, that there is one kind of frog that hath her mouth naturally shut up about the end of August, and that she lives so all the winter: and though it be strange to some, yet it is known to too many among us to be doubted.

And so much for these Fordidge Trouts, which never afford an Angler sport, but either live their time of being in the fresh water by their meat formerly gotten in the sea, not unlike the swallow or frog, or by the virtue of the fresh water only; or as the Bird of Paradise and the Chameleon are said to live, by the sun and the air.

There is also in Northumberland a Trout called a Bull-Trout, of a much greater length and bigness than any in these southern parts: and there are in many rivers that relate to the sea Salmon-Trouts, as much different from others, both in shape and in their spots, as we see sheep in some countries differ one from another in their shape and bigness, and in the fineness of their wool; and certainly, as some pastures breed larger sheep, so do some rivers, by reason of the ground over which they run, breed larger Trouts.

Now the next thing that I will commend to your consideration is, that the Trout is of a more sudden growth than other fish: con­cerning which you are also to take notice, that he lives not so long as the Perch and divers other fishes do, as Sir Francis Bacon hath observed in his "History of Life and Death."

And next you are to take notice, that he is not like the Croco­dile, which, if he lives never so long, yet always thrives till his death: but 'tis not so with the Trout; for after he has come to his full growth, he declines in his body, and keeps his bigness or thrives only in his head, till his death. And you are to know, that he will about, especially before, the time of his spawning, get almost miraculously through weirs and flood-gates against the streams: even through such high and swift places as is almost incredible. Next, that the Trout usually spawns about October or November, but in some rivers a little sooner or later: which is the more observ­able, because most other fish spawn in the spring or summer, when the sun hath warmed both the earth and water, and made it fit for generation. And you are to note, that he continues many months out of season: for it may be observed of the Trout, that he is like the Buck or the Ox, that will not be fat in many months, though he go in the very same pasture that horses do, which will be fat in one month; and so you may observe, that most other fishes recover strength, and grow sooner fat and in season, than the Trout doth.

And next you are to note, that till the sun gets to such a height as to warm the earth and the water, the Trout is sick, and lean, and lousy, and unwholesome: for you shall in winter find him to have a big head, and then to be lank, and thin, and lean: at which time many of them have sticking on them Sugs, or Trout-lice, which is a kind of a worm, in shape like a clove or pin, with a big head, and sticks close to him and sucks his moisture; those, I think, the Trout breeds himself, and never thrives till he free himself from them, which is when warm weather comes; and then, as he grows stronger, he gets from the dead still water into the sharp streams and the gravel, and there rubs off these worms or lice; and then, as he grows stronger, so he gets him into swifter and swifter streams, and there lies at the watch for any fly or minnow that comes near to him: and he especially loves the May-fly, which is bred of the Cod-worm, or Cadis; and these make the Trout bold and lusty, and he is usually fatter and better meat at the end of that month than at any time of the year.

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; but that is not usual: and it is a note observable, that the female Trout hath usually a less head and a deeper body than the male Trout, and is usually the better meat. And note, that a hog-back and a little head, to either Trout, Sal­ mon, or any other fish, is a sign that that fish is in season.

But yet you are to note, that as you see some willows, or palm-trees, bud and blossom sooner than others do, some Trouts be in rivers sooner in season: and as some hollies or oaks are longer before they cast their leaves, so are some Trouts in rivers longer before they go out of season.

And you are to note, that there are several kinds of Trouts; but these several kinds are not considered but by very few men, for they go under the general name of Trouts: just as Pigeons do in most places; though it is certain there are tame and wild Pigeons: and of the tame, there be Helmits and Runts, and Carriers and Cropers, and indeed too many to name. Nay, the Royal Society have found and published lately, that there be thirty and three kinds of Spiders: and yet all, for aught I know, go under that one general name of Spider. And 'tis so with many kinds of fish, and of Trouts especially, which differ in their bigness, and shape, and spots, and color. The great Kentish Hens may be an instance compared to other hens; and doubtless there is a kind of small Trout, which will never thrive to be big, that breeds very many more than others do that be of a larger size: which you may rather be­lieve, if you consider that the little Wren or Titmouse will have twenty young ones at a time, when usually the noble Hawk, or the musical Thrassel or Blackbird, exceed not four or five.

And now you shall see me try my skill to catch a Trout, and at my next walking, either this evening or to-morrow morning, I will give you direction how you yourself shall fish for him.

VEN. Trust me, Master, I see now it is a harder matter to catch a Trout than a Chub: for I have put on patience, and followed you these two hours, and not seen a fish stir, neither at your minnow nor your worm.

PISC. Well, Scholar, you must endure worse luck some time, or you will never make a good Angler. But what say you now? there is a Trout now, and a good one too, if I can but hold him, and two or three turns more will tire him. Now you see he lies still, and the sleight is to land him: reach me that landing-net. So, Sir, now he is mine own, what say you now? is not this worth all my labor and your patience?

VEN. On my word, Master, this is a gallant Trout; what shall we do with him?

PISC. Marry, e'en eat him to supper: we'll go to my Hostess, from whence we came: she told me, as I was going out of door, that my brother Peter, a good Angler and a cheerful companion, had sent word he would lodge there to-night, and bring a friend with him. My Hostess has two beds, and I know you and I may have the best: we'll rejoice with my brother Peter and his friend, tell tales, or sing ballads, or make a catch, or find some harmless sport to content us, and pass away a little time without offence to God or man.

VEN. A match, good Master: Let's go to that house, for the linen looks white, and smells of lavender, and I long to lie in a pair of sheets that smell so. Let's be going, good Master, for I am hungry again with fishing.

PISC. Nay, stay a little, good Scholar: I caught my last Trout with a worm; now I will put on a minnow and try a quarter of an hour about yonder trees for another, and so walk towards our lodging. Look you, Scholar, thereabout we shall have a bite pres­ently, or not at all. Have with you, Sir, o' my word, I have hold of him. Oh! it is a great logger-headed Chub; come, hang him upon that willow-twig, and let's be going. But turn out of the way a little, good Scholar, towards yonder high honeysuckle hedge; there we'll sit and sing whilst this shower falls so gently upon the teeming earth, and gives yet a sweeter smell to the lovely flowers that adorn these verdant meadows.

Look, under that broad beech-tree I sat down, when I was last this way a-fishing, and the birds in the adjoining grove seemed to have a friendly contention with an echo, whose dead voice seemed to live in a hollow tree, near to the brow of that primrose hill; there I sat viewing the silver streams glide silently towards their centre, the tempestuous sea; yet sometimes opposed by rugged roots, and pebble-stones, which broke their waves, and turned them into foam: and sometimes I beguiled time by viewing the harmless lambs, some leaping securely in the cool shade, whilst others sported themselves in the cheerful sun; and saw others craving comfort from the swollen udders of their bleating dams. As I thus sat, these and other sights had so fully possessed my soul with con­ tent, that I thought, as the poet has happily expressed it,


I was for that time lifted above earth,

And possessed joys not promised in my birth.

As I left this place, and entered into the next field, a second pleasure entertained me; 'twas a handsome Milkmaid that had not yet attained so much age and wisdom as to load her mind with any fears of many things that will never be, as too many men too often do; but she cast away all care, and sung like a nightingale. Her voice was good, and the ditty fitted for it; 'twas that smooth song, which was made by Kit Marlowe, now at least fifty years ago: and the Milkmaid's mother sung an answer to it, which was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days.

They were old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good, I think much better than the strong lines that are now in fashion in this critical age. Look yonder! on my word, yonder they both be a-milking again. I will give her the Chub, and persuade them to sing those two songs to us.

God speed you, good woman! I have been a-fishing, and am going to Bleak Hall to my bed; and having caught more fish than will sup myself and my friend, I will bestow this upon you and your daughter, for I use to sell none.

MILK-w. Marry, God requite you! Sir, and we'll eat it cheer­ fully; and if you come this way a-fishing two months hence, a-grace of God I'll give you a syllabub of new verjuice in a new-made hay-cock for it, and my Maudlin shall sing you one of her best ballads; for she and I both love all Anglers, they be such honest, civil, quiet men. In the mean time will you drink a draught of red cow's milk? you shall have it freely.

PISC. No, I thank you; but I pray do us a courtesy that shall stand you and your daughter in nothing, and yet we will think ourselves still something in your debt: it is but to sing us a song that was sung by your daughter when I last passed over this meadow, about eight or nine days since.

MILK-w. What song was it, I pray? Was it "Come, Shepherds, deck your herds?" or "As at noon Dulcina rested?" or "Philida flouts me?" or Chevy Chace? or Johnny Armstrong? or Troy Town?

PISC. No, it is none of those: it is a song that your daughter sung the first part, and you sung the answer to it.

MILK-w. O, I know it now; I learned the first part in my golden age, when I was about the age of my poor daughter; and the latter part, which indeed fits me best now, but two or three years ago, when the cares of the world began to take hold of me: but you shall, God willing, hear them both, and sung as well as we can, for we both love Anglers. Come, Maudlin, sing the first part to the gentlemen with a merry heart, and I'll sing the second, when you have done.


THE MILK-MAID'S SONG

Come, live with me, and be my love,

And we will all the pleasure prove
That valleys, groves, or hills, or field,
Or woods and steepy mountains yield.

Where we will sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed our flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses,
And then a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool,
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Slippers lined choicely for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw, and ivy-buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs; —
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come, live with me, and be my love.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat,
As precious as the Gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.

The Shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

VEN. Trust me, Master, it is a choice song, and sweetly sung by honest Maudlin. I now see it was not without cause that our good Queen Elizabeth did so often wish herself a Milkmaid all the month of May, because they are not troubled with fears and cares, but sing sweetly all the day, and sleep securely all the night: and, without doubt, honest, innocent, pretty Maudlin does so. I'll be­ stow Sir Thomas Overbury's Milkmaid's wish upon her, — "that she may die in the Spring; and, being dead, may have good store of flowers stuck round about her winding-sheet."


THE MILK-MAID'S MOTHER'S ANSWER


If all the world and love were young

And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee, and be thy love.

But time drives flocks from field to fold:
When rivers rage, and rocks grow cold,
Then Philomel becometh dumb,
And age complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward Winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies,
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten;
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw, and ivy-buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee, and be thy Love.

What, should we talk of dainties then,
Of better meat than's fit for men?
These are but vain: that's only good
Which God hath blest, and sent for food.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then those delights my mind might move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.

MOTHER. Well, I have done my song. But stay, honest Anglers, for I will make Maudlin to sing you one short song more. Maud­lin, sing that song that you sung last night, when young Coridon the Shepherd played so purely on his oaten pipe to you and your Cousin Retty.

MAUD. I will, Mother.


I married a wife of late,

The more's my unhappy fate:
     I married her for love,
     As my fancy did me move,
And not for a worldly estate:

     But oh! the green-sickness
     Soon changed her likeness,
And all her beauty did fail.
     But 'tis not so
     With those that go,
     Through frost and snow,
As all men know,
And carry the milking-pail.

PISC. Well sung! Good woman, I thank you. I'll give you an­ other dish of fish one of these days; and then beg another song of you. Come, Scholar, let Maudlin alone: do not you offer to spoil her voice. Look! yonder comes mine Hostess, to call us to supper. How now! is my brother Peter come?

HOST. Yes, and a friend with him; they are both glad to hear that you are in these parts, and long to see you, and long to be at supper, for they be very hungry.


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