1729
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Piscatory Eclogues: I. The Weather.

Piscatory Eclogues: an Essay to introduce new Rules, and new Characters, into Pastoral. To which is prefix'd, a Discourse in Defence of this Undertaking. With Practical and Philosophical Notes.

Rev. Moses Browne


Moses Browne's first eclogue takes up a georgic theme, weather prognostication, in the form of a singing-contest.

"ARGUMENT. Lalet and Argel, two young Fishers, are observed by the Herdsman Mico at their Diversion. He familiarly accosts them, desiring to know their Success. They relate to him the Inconveniences that happen to the Sportsman in Droughts and after Land-Floods, Then make some Observations on the Signs and Changes of Weather, describe the best Seasons for Angling; After which one of them recites some practical Directions, with what Baits are proper for Summer, as the other does for Winter-Fishing. Upon this the Swain honours them with a rural Present, forewarns them of the Approach of Rain, and invites them to lodge the Evening at his Cottage, and partake of a homely Entertainment."

Henry Marion Hall: "Three pieces are contests, one of them beginning in rude banter borrowed and adapted from Virgil's third bucolic. Two youthful anglers sing before the herdsman Mico, who watches them fishing, alternate songs giving an accurate account of the inconveniences to fishermen resulting from long droughts and land floods, the signs and changes of the weather, seasons best for their recreation, and the methods of summer and winter angling. All this knowledge is of course, Waltonian, yet it has the sanction of Augustan criticism in Pope's dictum that the characters in pastoral should be made to know enough astronomy to assist them in the pursuit of their daily routine in life" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 172.

Readers with an interest in the subject should consult "A Catalogue of Books on Angling" in British Bibliographer 2 (1812) 353-70, which contains much of interest to anglers and antiquaries, including the best biographical notice of Moses Browne.



LALET, ARGEL, MICO.

Tho' Maro in divine Augustus' Days,
To Rome's first Patriots tun'd the rural Lays;
Aw'd, must the Muse attempt her humbler Strain,
To nobler Patriots in a greater reign?

Thou, DODINGTON, of British Courts the Boast,
In whom the Poet's Hope is never lost,
While I by Streams in lowly Plains rejoice,
And bashful try, in Shades, my artless Voice,
Wilt thou, best Poet, best of Patrons, heed
This homely Tribute of my rustic reed?
O! ever to the British Muses dear,
And born their solitary Shades to cheer,
Beneath their Influence shall our Isle no more
The boasted Art of Greece and Rome adore;
O'er every Clime her Genius shall prevail,
And Classic Bards, unborn, their own Apollo hail.

By a lone Stream that wash'd the Village Side,
Two social Youths the heedful Angle ply'd;
No Fisher-Lad did e'er their Skill exceed,
Nor Swain more deftly stop the tuneful Reed:
The herdsman Mico, from a hilly Ground,
Close at their Sport the busy Artists found,
And to the Flood with hast'ning steps drew near,
For much he lov'd their mirthful Songs to hear;
Safe in their Stalls his lowing Herds were laid,
And Bruma dress'd green Lentiles in the Shade:
For nigh at hand his lowly Hut was rear'd,
And thro' the Trees the dusky Thatch appear'd:
The winding River thro' his Meadow ran:
Soon to the Swains he join'd, and thus began.

MICO.
What Sport, ye Pair of Fisher Friends, relate,
Or feed the Shoal, or do they pass the Bait?

LALET.
When Droughts like these the slack'ning Streams repress
How, Mico, can the Angler hope Success?
The Fish, with sick'ning Looks their Food refrain;
And seek the Coolness of the Deep in vain.
No kindly Rains the scanty Pools supply,
And running Brooks have ebb'd their Channels dry:
On muddy Banks their fishy Train they leave,
And with the Heat their parchy Bottoms cleave;
A russet Die embrowns the wasted Fields,
And the scorch'd Wood its wither'd Verdure yields.

ARGEL.
And yet of late the neighbouring Meads I've known
With bursting Show'rs, and welt'ring Tides o'erflown,
The rising Floods o'ertop the mounding Shores,
And leave on distant Plains their scaly Stores,
While oft, from steepy Hills the Moisture drains,
By sweepy Torrents wash'd, or trick'ling Rains;
O'er the clear streams a dark'ning Cloud it spreads,
And drives the Earth-Worms from their slimy Beds;
In swarming Shoals resort the finny Brood,
And glut insatiate on the fatt'ning Food.
Then vainly waves the Angler's lengthen'd Cane,
And costly Baits allure the Fry in vain.

MICO.
Nor wants the Angler, pre-advis'd, to know
When certain Signs disfavouring Hours foreshow:
Oft-times he views, awarn'd by adverse Skies,
His Fly or gliding Cork with hopeless Eyes;
When the dry East-Wind parches up the Plain,
Or the wet South pours down the drenching Rain.

LALET.
To flatt'ring Skies no certain Credit lend,
Nor on precarious Signs too far depend;
The Sportsman oft a ruddy Morning sees,
The Air unclouded, and without a Breeze,
When sudden Winds with height'ning Gusts arise,
And pitchy Clouds enwrap the dark'ning Skies;
Then drizzly Rains descend in ceaseless Show'rs,
And sullen Auster shakes the dripping Bow'rs;
The Anglers homeward o'er the meads repass,
And journey cheerless thro' the plashy grass—
And oft when Clouds a threat'ning Storm display,
The Omen issues in a radiant Day.

ARGEL.
Happy the Fisher, when in sportive Hours,
No Droughts prevent him, nor intemp'rate Show'rs;
When mildest zephyrs thro' the Aether fly,
Or South-Winds spread their Fleeces o'er the Sky,
While vary'd Sun-shine and alternate Rains,
Temper the Streams, and verdure all the Plains;
Then Fish rise eager at the floating Bait,
Or sink the Cork with their entangled Weight:
But warn th' unpractis'd Angler not to ply
In Shallows then amid the swarming Fry,
Lest haply they on the hid Ruin feed,
And of their Tribes prevent the future Breed.

Thus both by Turns the list'ning Swain amuse:
—Both pause, then each the varying Song renews.

LALET.
When rotting Weeds the thick'ning Floods distain,
And to the Deeps retire the finny Train;
Seek, Angler, then no more th' uncertain Prize,
Ensuing Rains expect, and wint'ry Skies.

ARGEL.
When mulb'ries first their early Verdure wear,
And wormy Baits the hungry Perch ensnare;
Securely then the peaceful Streams explore,
Ceas'd are the Snows, and Frosts offend no more.

LALET.
If Anglers, while the Summer Sports persuade,
Ye hope your Toils with kindly Hours repay'd,
With mingling Threads be artful Flies design'd,
If unprovided of the native Kind,
From sedgy Brooks the husky Cadews bear,
And from the Sord, the bedded Worm prepare;
Or watch where Wasps their infant Brood display,
And from their Hives the stingless Young convey;
Nor less may in the blended Choice avail,
To hoard th' autumnal Bee and dewy Snail:
For oft invited by the vary'd Bait,
The heedless Fish are lur'd to tempt their Fate;
Whether in Depths retir'd obscure they lie,
Or leap expos'd to snatch the plunging Fly.

ARGEL.
Ye Anglers, if in wint'ry Hours ye chuse
By lonely Floods the bending Reed to use,
Observe at Autumn when the lab'ring Swain
The yielding Green-sord plows or sandy Plain;
If Crows in Troops attend the passing Share,
Pursue the Track, and eye the Turfs with Care:
A Worm within the parted Clods you'll find
Of whitish Hue, the Beetle's early Kind;
For there the pregnant Tribe their Brood repose,
Which when mature their Parent-Form disclose:
Of these be careful in your Stores to place,
A Food delicious to the wat'ry Race.

MICO.
Harmonious Pair, ye pride of Fisher-Swains,
What thanks are due for such unequall'd Strains!
Not sweeter Sound the whistling Breezes make,
Nor Floods that on the rocky Margin break.
And, lo, the while, my Hands have well design'd,
Two Wreaths of Flow'rs and fragrant Myrtles twin'd;
For either Brow a rural Trophy made,
Both Victors, both with equal gifts repay'd.
And if you'll teach me, if the Skill impart,
To sing like you, and fish with peerless Art,
Two rods of smoothest Cane shall wait your Care,
With lines of twisted Silk, and purest Hair.
But now with me dispend the louring Night,
'Till bloomy Morn renew the cheering Light:
For see! apace the Evening Shadows rise,
And gath'ring Clouds enwrap the sable Skies;
Your homeward Course 'twere vent'rous to pursue,
When warning Signs the hast'ning Show'r foreshew.
Now flies the Trunks of shadiest Trees surround,
And Ants are in their closest Coverts found,
The sportful Fish above the Current spring,
And Swallows brush the Wave with level Wing;
From weedy Pools the croaking Frogs complain,
And flocking Jays await the coming Rain;
Behold afar the melting Show'r distills,
And breaks in Mists around the smoaking Hills.
By chearful Fires the gloomy Eve we'll waste,
And hoarded Fruits shall yield a sweet Repast.
For you two Beds of River-Reeds I'll strew,
Dry from the Stream, yet green as when they grew;
With Poppies each, and Violet-flow'rs, bespread,
And Hazels, soft as Wool, to rest your Head,
While Winds, and dripping Rains, a Concert keep,
And thro' the russling Leaves allure to Sleep.

[Poems (1739) 27-38]