William Browne


Britannia's Pastorals


Now as an angler melancholy standing
Upon a green bank yielding room for landing,
A wriggling yellow worm thrust on his hook,
Now in the midst he throws, then in a nook:
Here pulls his line, there throws it in again,
Mendeth his cork and bait, but all in vain,
He long stands viewing of the curled stream;
At last a hungry pike, or well-grown bream
Snatch at the worm, and hasting fast away,
He knowing it a fish of stubborn sway,
Pulls up his rod, but soft, as having skill,
Wherewith the hook fast holds the fish's gill;
Then all his line he freely yieldeth him,
Whilst furiously all up and down doth swim
Th' insnared fish, here on the top doth scud,
There underneath the banks, then in the mud,
And with his frantic fits so scares the shoal,
That each one takes his hide, or starting hole:
By this the pike, clean wearied, underneath
A willow lies, and pants (if fishes breathe)
Wherewith the angler gently pulls him to him,
And lest his haste might happen to undo him,
Lays down his rod, then takes his line in hand,
And by degrees getting the fish to land,
Walks to another pool: at length is winner
Of such a dish as serves him for his dinner:
So when the climber half the way had got,
Musing he stood, and busily 'gan plot
How (since the mount did always steeper tend)
He might with steps secure his journey end.
At last (as wand'ring boys to gather nuts)
A hooked pole he from a hazel cuts;
Now throws it here, then there to take some hold,
But bootless and in vain, the rocky mould
Admits no cranny where his hazel hook
Might promise him a step, till in a nook
Somewhat above his reach he hath espied
A little oak, and having often tried
To catch a bough with standing on his toe,
Or leaping up, yet not prevailing so,
He rolls a stone towards the little tree,
Then gets upon it, fastens warily
His pole unto a bough, and at his drawing
The early-rising crow with clam'rous cawing,
Leaving the green bough, flies about the rock,
Whilst twenty twenty couples to him flock:
And now within his reach the thin leaves wave,
With one hand only then he holds his stave,
And with the other grasping first the leaves,
A pretty bough he in his fist receives;
Then to his girdle making fast the hook,
His other hand another bough hath took;
His first, a third, and that, another gives,
To bring him to the place where his root lives.
Then, as a nimble squirrel from the wood,
Ranging the hedges for his filberd-food,
Sits peartly on a bough his brown nuts cracking,
And from the shell the sweet white kernel taking,
Till with their crooks and bags a sort of boys,
To share with him, come with so great a noise,
That he is forc'd to leave a nut nigh broke,
And for his life leap to a neighbour oak,
Thence to a beech, thence to a row of ashes;
Whilst through the quagmires, and red water plashes,
The boys run dabbling thorough thick and thin;
One tears his hose, another breaks his shin,
This, torn and tatter'd, hath with much ado
Got by the briars; and that hath lost his shoe;
This drops his band; that headlong falls for haste;
Another cries behind for being last;
With sticks and stones, and many a sounding holloa,
The little fool, with no small sport, they follow,
Whilst he, from tree to tree, from spray to spray,
Gets to the wood, and hides him in his dray:
Such shift made Riot ere he could get up,
And so from bough to bough he won the top,
Though hindrances, for ever coming there,
Were often thrust upon him by Despair.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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