Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Blessing of Content
By Izaak Walton (1593–1683)
From The Complete Angler

Venator.  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 this song; was it not, master?
  Piscator.  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.  2
  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 colours; 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 1 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.”
Note 1. culverkeyes.  The flowers called columbines. [back]

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