1653 | Staffordshire

To Fish, to Live

Izaak Walton on an angler’s delight.

As inward love breeds outward talk,
The hound some praise, and some the hawk,
Some better pleas’d with private sport,
Use Tennis, some a Mistress court:
   But these delights I neither wish,
Nor envy, while I freely fish.

Who hunts, doth oft in danger ride;
Who hawks, lures oft both far and wide;
Who uses games, may often prove
A loser; but who falls in love,
Is fettered in fond Cupid’s snare:
My angle breeds me no such care.

Of recreation there is none
So free as fishing is alone;
All other pastimes do no less
Than mind and body both possess;
My hand alone my work can do,
So I can fish and study too.

But yet though while I fish, I fast,
I make good fortune my repast,
And thereunto my friend invite,
In whom I more than that delight:
Who is more welcome to my dish,
Than to my angle was my fish.

As well content no prize to take
As use of taken prize to make;
For so our Lord was pleased when
He fishers made fishers of men;
Where (which is in no other game)
A man may fish and praise his name.

The first men that our Savior dear
Did choose to wait upon him here,
Blest fishers were; and fish the last
Food was that he on earth did taste:
I therefore strive to follow those
Whom he to follow him hath chose.


Izaak Walton

From The Compleat Angler. After apprenticing to a linen draper in London, Walton acquired a small shop of his own near St. Dunstan’s Church, where he met John Donne and became his fishing companion. He oversaw five editions of his work on fishing; since the late 1700s there have been at least three hundred more, making it one of the most reprinted works of English literature.