Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
On a Bank as I Sat A-fishing
By Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639)
THIS 1 day Dame Nature seemed in love;
The lusty sap began to move;
Fresh juice did stir th’ embracing vines,
And birds had drawn their valentines;
The jealous trout that low did lie        5
Rose at the well-dissembled fly;
There stood my friend, 2 with patient skill
Attending of his trembling quill.
Already were the eaves possess’d
With the swift pilgrim’s daubèd nest;        10
The groves already did rejoice
In Philomel’s triumphing voice;
The showers were short, the weather mild,
The morning fresh, the evening smiled;
Joan takes her neat-rubbed pail, and now        15
She trips to milk the sand-red cow;
Where for some sturdy football swain
Joan strokes a syllabub or twain;
The fields and gardens were beset
With tulip, crocus, violet;        20
And now, though late the modest rose
Did more than half a blush disclose,
Thus all looked gay and full of cheer
To welcome the new-liveried year.
Note 1. “This piece,” says Dr. Hannah, in his edition of the Poems of Sir Henry Wotton, “is inserted in Walton’s Angler (pp. 60, 61, ed. 1655), with some introductory remarks which I shall quote at some length. ‘My next and last example shall be that under-valuer of money, the late Provost of Eton Colledg, Sir Henry Wotton, (a man with whom I have often fished and convers’d), a man whose forraign Imployments in the service of this Nation, and whose experience, learning, wit, and cheerfulnesse made his company to be esteemed one of the delights of mankind; this man,—whose very approbation of Angling were sufficient to convince any modest Censurer of it,—this man was also a most dear lover, and a frequent practiser of the Art of Angling; of which he would say, ’Twas an Imployment for his idle time, which was (then) not idly spent; for angling was, after tedious Study, A rest to his mind, a cheerer of his spirits, a devotion of sadnesse, a calmer of unquiet thoughts, a moderator of passions, a procurer of contentednesse; and, that it begot habits of peace and patience in those that profest and practis’d it.—Sir, this was the saying of that Learned man; and I do easily believe that peace and patience, and a calme content did cohabit in the cheerful heart of Sir Henry Wotton, because I know, that when hee was beyond seventy yeares of age, hee made this discription of a part of the present pleasure that possest him, as he sate quietly in a summer’s evening on a bank a-fishing; it is a description of the Spring, which, because it glides as soft and sweetly from his pen, as that River does now by which it was then made, I shall repeat unto you.’”
  There are three extant texts of the poem: i., as in the Complete Angler; ii., MS. Rawl. poet. 147, p. 47; iii., Archbishop Sancroft’s MS. Tam. 465, fol. 61 vâ. The title given is “On the Spring,” in both MSS., and signed SR. H. Wotton. The text here followed is collated from the various readings. [back]
Note 2. There stood my friend: Dr. Hannah says, “the biographers of Izaak are doubtless right in treating this as a reference to him. Zouch, p. xiii, ed. 1796. Nicholas, pp. xxxv, 79.” [back]

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