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Chapter 16. IS OF NOTHING, OR THAT WHICH IS NOTHING WORTH
PISCATOR. My purpose was to give you some directions concerning Roach and Dace, and some other inferior 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 come our Brother Peter and honest Coridon. But I will promise you, that, as you and I fish and walk to-morrow towards London, if I have now for gotten anything 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 then 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 had not an unpleasant day, and yet I have caught but five Trouts; for indeed we went to a good honest ale-house, and there we played 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 supped let us have your song, Piscator, and the catch 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.
VEN. And I hope the like for my catch, which I have ready too: and therefore let's 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.
O, the gallant fisher's life,
It is the best of any;
'Tis full of pleasure, void of strife,
And 'tis beloved by many:
Are but toys,
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 leisure.
When we please to walk abroad
For our recreation,
In the fields is our abode,
Full of delectation:
Where in a brook
With a hook,
Or a lake,
Fish we take;
There we sit,
For a bit,
Till we fish entangle.
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
We sit still,
And watch our quill;
Fishers must not wrangle.
If the sun's 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 Gudgeon
We are still contented.
Or we sometimes pass an hour
Under a green willow;
That defends us from a shower,
Making earth our pillow;
Where we may
Think and pray,
Stops our breath.
Are but toys,
And to be lamented.
VEN. Well sung, Master! This day's fortune and pleasure, and this night's 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 his song; was it not Master?
PISC. Yes, indeed, for it is many years since I learned 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 poetry, as my part of the song may testify: 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, let's hear your catch, Scholar; which I hope will be a good one, for you are both musical and have a good fancy to boot.
VEN. 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 to-morrow. But, Master, first let me tell you that, that very hour which you were absent from me, I sat 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 lawsuits depending, and that they both damped 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 flies of several shapes and colors; looking on the hills, I 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 cowslips, all to make garlands suitable to this present month of May. These, and many other field-flowers, so perfumed the air, that I thought that very meadow like that 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 scent. I say, as I thus sat, 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 enjoy what the other possess and enjoy 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 only, can say, as the poet has happily expressed it: —
Hail! blest estate of lowliness!
Happy enjoyments of such minds,
As, rich in self-contentedness,
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 Eclogues, in which you shall see the picture of this good man's mind; and I wish mine to be like it.
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-leaved beeches in the field receive him
With coolest shade, till noontide's heat be spent:
His life is neither tossed in boisterous seas,
or the vexatious world, or lost in slothful ease:
Pleased and full 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 hath place;
His little son into his bosom creeps,
The lively picture of his father's face.
His humble house or poor state ne'er 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 possessed me. And I there made a conversion of a piece of an old catch, 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 music indeed! This has cheered my heart, and made me to remember six verses in praise of Music, which I will speak to you instantly.
Music! miraculous rhetoric! that speak'st sense
Without a tongue, excelling eloquence;
With what ease might thy errors be excused,
Wert thou as truly loved as thou 'rt abused!
But thou dull souls neglect, and some reprove thee,
I cannot hate thee, 'cause the Angels love thee.
VEN. And the repetition of these last verses of music have called to my memory what Mr. Edmund Waller, a lover of the angle, says of Love and Music.
Whilst I listen to thy voice,
Chloris, I feel my heart decay;
That powerful voice
Calls my fleeting soul away:
O, suppress that magic sound,
Which destroys without a wound!
Peace, Chloris, peace; or singing die,
That together you and I
To heaven may go:
For all we know
Of what the blessed do above
Is, that they sing, and that they love.
PISC. Well remembered, Brother Peter; these verses came seasonably, and we thank you heartily, Come, we will all join together, my Host and all, and sing my Scholar's Catch over again, and then each man drink the t'other cup and to bed, and thank God we have a dry house over our heads.
PISC. Well now, Good night to everybody.
PET. And so say I.
VEN. 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 Hostess says there is seven shillings to pay: let's each man drink a pot for his morning's draught, and lay down his two shillings; that so my Hostess may not have occasion to repent herself of being so diligent, and using us so kindly.
PET. The motion is liked by everybody, and so, Hostess, here's your money: we Anglers are all beholden to you; it will not be long ere 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.