The Angler's Ballad

by Charles Cotton

AWAY to the brook,
All your tackle out look,
Here's a day that is worth a year's wishing;
See that all things be right,
For 'tis a very spite
To want tools when a man goes a-fishing.

Your rod with tops two,
For the same will not do
If your manner of angling you vary
And full will you may think
If you troll with a pink,
One too weak will be apt to miscarry.

Then basket, neat made
By a master in's trade
In a belt at your shoulders must dangle;
For none e'er was so vain
To wear this to disdain,
Who a true Brother was of the Angle.

Next, pouch must not fail,
Stuff'd as full as a mail,
With wax, crewels, silks, hair, furs and feathers,
To make several flies,
For the several skies,
That shall kill in despite of all weathers.

The boxes and books
For your lines and your hooks,
And, though not for strict need notwithstanding,
Your scissors, and your hone
To adjust your points on,
With a net to be sure for your landing.

All these things being on,
'Tis high time we were gone,
Down, and upward, that all may have pleasure;
Till, here meeting at night,
We shall have the delight
To discourse of our fortunes at leisure.

The day's not too bright,
And the wind hits us right,
And all Nature does seem to invite us;
We have all things at will
For to second our skill,
As they all did conspire to delight us.

Or stream now, or still,
A large pannier will fill,
Trout and grayling to rise are so willing;
I dare venture to say
'Twill be a bloody day,
And we all shall be weary of killing.

Away then, away,
We lose sport by delay,
But first leave all our sorrows behind us;
If misfortune do come,
We are all gone from home,
And a-fishing she never can find us.

The Angler is free
From the cares that degree
Finds itself with so often tormented;
And though we should slay
Each a hundred to-day,
'Tis a slaughter needs ne'er be repented.

And though we display
All our arts to betray
What were made for man's pleasure and diet;
Yet both princes and states
May, for all our quaint baits,
Rule themselves and their people in quiet.

We scratch not our pates,
Nor repine at the rates
Our superiors impose on our living;
But do frankly submit,
Knowing they have more wit
in demanding, than we have in giving.

Whilst quiet we sit
We conclude all things fit,
Acquiescing with hearty submission;
For, though simple, we know
The soft murmurs will grow
At the last into down-right sedition.

We care not who says,
And intends it dispraise,
That an Angler t'a fool is next neighbour;
Let him prate, what care we,
We're as honest as he,
And so let him take that for his labour.

We covet no wealth
But the blessing of health,
And that greater good conscience within;
Such devotion we bring
To our God and our King,
That from either no offers can win.

Whilst we sit and fish
We do pray as we wish,
For long life to our King James the Second;
Honest Anglers then may,
Or they've very foul play,
With the best of good subjects be reckon'd.

Last updated April 24, 2023