Piscatory Eclogues: VI. The Songs.

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

A sea-going singing contest is dedicated "To the most ingenious and obliging Mr. Henry Price, of Pool in Dorsetshire." The particularity in the natural history owes something to Izaak Walton (whose Compleat Angler Moses Browne would later edit): "Whoever reads the elaborate Apology, curious Instructions, natural Descriptions, the pleasant, moral, and learned Digressions of that engaging Author, will return fully possess'd with a Love to the Subject; it will insinuate frequently into his Reading; a thousand unwearied Times. I found by the Dialogues of his Anglers, how properly such Characters would suit with the innocent and humble Rules of Eclogue; and they may have this Advantage, that the Phrase need not be so low and clownish as the Legislators of Pastoral require in their Swains" Essay in Defence of Piscatory (1739) 17.

"ARGUMENT. Myrtol and Thelgon, desired by a Fellow-Swain to sing, alternately, recite several short and hasty Ditties, composed on Subjects which seem to occur most sudden and accidental, without any Design, Order, or Method. What the last sings, is, in some sort, a Second or Counter-Part to that recited by his Companion; chiefly descriptive, and briefly relating to the Nature and Breed of Fish, their Haunts and Feeding, with other intermingled rustic Reflections of a Piscatory Kind, which done, they are severally commended, and rewarded for their Skill; and so friendly depart."


Sing, Myrtol, skilfull'st deem'd of Fisher-Swains,
And Thelgon next supply alternate Strains;
In matchless Lays your matchless Voices try.
Sing, Myrtol, first, the Angler will reply;
To you of right the leading Strains belong,
With Art can Thelgon fit his Under-Song.

Me, dappled Trout in crystal Floods delight,
And wiley Carp, with golden Scales bedight.
By murm'ring Streams (sweet are the murm'ring Streams)
Loves my blithe Muse to chaunt her rural Themes:
The softest Echo there, the freshest Breeze,
The singing Swain, and Noon-spent Angler please.

Sweet are the murm'ring Streams, 'tis sweet to dwell
Where hilly Woods surround my lonely Cell;
A sunny Garden decks its little Sides,
Soft by whose Skirts the pearly Medway glides;
Here hony'd Wood-bines bloom, a native Bow'r,
And Herbs of ev'ry Leaf and ev'ry Flow'r.

O, Aquadune! unquiet Seas forsake,
And here with me a milder Dwelling make.
What Sports can'st thou pursue, what Pleasure find
On rugged Rocks and seas deform'd with Wind?
Along the Main no more thy Nets expand,
Nor Shell-Fish seek forsaken on the Sand.
On the raw Beech or craggy Cliff he dwells,
And sleeps on Sea-weed, or th' updriven Shells.
Lo! Salmon now the Springs of Rivers seek,
And Pike for Frogs explore the streighten'd Creek;
Now Carp their Spawn repose on sedgy Weeds,
And here the Trout frequents and Grayling breeds.

Nymphs, leave your Fountains; by the briny Main,
The Wand'rer seek, recall th' inconstant Swain.
From Shades he flies, he shuns the Cool of Streams,
And deaf'ning Surges lull his hardy Dreams;
Expos'd he leaves his lovely Limbs resign'd
To the offensive Gnat, and tanning Wind.
Tho' Canens holds thee thy untempting Care,
As Bull-heads homely, thou than Trouts more fair,
Thy Lines renew, and scatter'd Rods compose,
For now the Fishers sport, and South-wind blows.

The fearful Cheven loves the shaded Stream,
Sharp rills delight the Trout, and pools the Bream,
In deeps the speckled Samlet loves to rove,
And marly Swifts allure the Barbel drove;
Unwary Roach the sandy Bottom chuse,
And Carp the Weeds, and Eels the muddy Ooze.

Whilom the Trout was wont to yield Delight,
Once could the Umber, once the Tench invite,
The wattled Barbel erst my Choice possess'd,
And lordly Pike deserv'd my chief Request:
Now all must to the shapely Dare give place,
My only Choice, for Aegle loves the Dace.

Ho! Boys that gather Flow'rs! your footsteps heed,
Nor near the Banks your Roam, too vent'rous lead;
Unsafe when droughty Summers chap their Veins,
Or when they sink, deep-sapp'd with mould'ring Rains.

Leave nibbling, Minnows, leave the dang'rous Snare,
Ye worthless Tribe the guileful bait beware;
Nor trust the raven Trout while here you rove,
Hence from his Haunts, and seek the safer Drove.

Say, can'st thou tell where Eels in Winter hide?
Or where the Swallow's vagrant Race reside?
How Salmon, yearly guest, th' accustom'd Main,
Or wint'ry Frogs their foodless Kinds sustain?

Say, can'st thou tell how Worms of Moisture breed?
Or Pike are gender'd of the Pick'rel-Weed?
How Carp without the Parent Kinds renew?
Or slimy Eels are form'd of genial Dew?

Rash, little Perch! too heedless of thy Fate,
What frenzy urg'd to try the flatt'ring Bait?
But safe return, — and when of apter Size,
See thou reward my Care, a worthier Prize.

Feed, Gudgeon, on the Pebbly Scower secure,
Nor fear th' impris'ning net, or treach'rous Lure.
For rising Trout the barby Hook I tie,
Lengthen the Rod, and fix th' flutt'ring Fly.

I hate the greedy Sticklebag, — they spoil
The Bait, yet ne'er reward the Fisher's toil.

I hate the Fordwich Trout, intent they wait
The moving Fly, yet ne'er devour the Bait.

Frogs to the Carp a fearful Ruin prove:
And Pike are dreaded by the weaker Drove;
Devouring Eels affright the lesser Swarm,
And me Philonda's deadly Frowns alarm.

The Fly to Trouts, to Bream the wormy Snare,
Are strong Allurements, Gentles to the Dare:
The Cheven to the Cadew-bait is prone,
And fair Lycisca is my Choice alone.

This Skin all spotted, of a lovely Hue,
Unwrought with Art, and from the Shearers new,
A Scrip for youthful Meliboeus made,
And not unuseful for the Fisher's Trade,
O Myrtol, take; — the present I resign—
These Hooks, O Thelgon, and this Pipe be thine;
Of equal price, — both equals in your Art.
But low'ry Evening warns us to depart,
Nor long the cautious Singer shou'd be laid
Beneath the Walnut, an unwholesome Shade.
The silver Streams grow blacker to the Sight,
And Groves and Meadows lose their Green in Night,
From reeking Floods obscuring Mists diffuse,
And chilly Air is full of hov'ring Dews.

[Poems (1739) 84-95]