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THE WAND OF WALTON.
Sometimes an angler comes and drops his hook
And dreams or falls asleep,
While curious fishes peep About his nibbled bait, or scornfully
Dart off and rise and leap.
Robert BRIDGES: The Shorter Poems.
T was in no wise essential that the de
lights of the water-side should have been extolled by Walton to be generally appreciated, or to enhance the pleasures of what is supremely the Contemplative Man's recreation. To the pastime of Angling, nevertheless, The Compleat Angler has added a finer grace, and to flowing waters imparted a sweeter sound. What Gilbert White accomplished within his chosen province, the development of a closer attention to the beauties of outward Nature, — Walton had equally furthered more than a century previous in his favourite pursuit. That his idyllium was modelled to a considerable extent after the plan of The Whole Art Of Hysbandry of Heresbachius, and of The Treaty se of Fysshynge wyth an Angle of Dame Julyans, or Juliana Berners, or whoever its author may have been, is of little consequence: the key of angling pleasures was pitched at the meeting of “Piscator " and “ Venator on Tottenham Hill, on a certain fine pleasant fresh May day, in the morning, when hawthorns shed their fragrance and meads were prankt with flowers; and Walton fingered the reed.
To expect absolute originality in the treatment of any subject, even during olden days when the multiplicity of books had already become a vexation, were to seek for the philosopher's stone. Æons ago, it had been declared there was nothing new but what had been forgotten ; and in order to learn the new, one must search the old. Man had angled before Walton's time, and man had written of angling; but none had alluded to it; at least no prose-writer had referred to it with the unbounded love with which he has invested the theme in his sprightly dissertation. And not unlike Selborne, its immortality is largely due to its simple style and freshness. In both of these pastorals there is distilled the fragrance
of peace and contentment, as from some golden censer. Both savour of “Art and Honesty, two things now strangers with many authors; ” and in the writing of each, a recreation was “ made of a recreation."
No sport embraces so extensive a literature or has been so enthusiastically considered as that which descants upon the
“dancing cork and bending reed,” or which treats of the fascinations accompanying the poetic pastime of the fly-fisher. This intense love for angling, common alike to young
and old when enthusiasm has once been kindled, is due not only to the restful scenes amid which it is usually practised, but to its being generally formed during early youth. Nor is it to be wondered at that its devotees should regard it with such tender