chapter  XXIII
11 Pages

Of Fishing

QpPIAN, in th~ book that he hath made upon this subjeet, saith that in the hunting of beasts and of birds, besides the facility, there is more contentment and delight than in fishing, because that a man hath many retreats-one may get himself into the shadow, one may meet with brooks to quench his thirst, one may lie down on the grass, one may take his repast under some shelter. As for birds, one may take them in the nest and with bird-lime-yea, of themselves very often they fall into the nets. But poor fishermen cast their bait upon an uncertainty-yea, double uncertainty, as well because they know not what adventure shall happen unto them as because they are upon an inconstant and untamable element, whose very sight only is fearful. They are always wandering from place to place, subjeets to tempests, and beaten with storms and winds. But yet in the end he concludeth that they are not destitute of all pleasure, but rather that they have enough when they are in a ship well built, well tight, well closed, and swift in sailing. Then, cutting the waves, they go to sea, where the great skulls of devouring fishes are, and, casting into the sea a line well twisted, the weight of it is no sooner in the bottom but that as soon the bait is snatched up, and suddenly the fish is drawn up with great pleasure. And in this exercise did Marcus Antoninus, the son of the Emperor Severus, delight himself very much, notwithstanding Plato's reason, who forming his commonwealth hath forbidden his citizens the exercise of fishing as unnoble and illiberal, and fosterer of idleness. Wherein he did grossly equivocate, specially

when he chargeth fishermen with idleness. Which is so evident that I will not vouchsafe to refute him. But I marvel not of that which he saith of fishing, seeing that with the same he also rejectethhawking, upon the same reasons. Plutarch saith that it is more laudable to take either a hart, a roebuck, or a hare, than to buy them; but he wadeth not so far as the other. Howsoever it be, the Church, which is the first order in human society, whose priesthood is called royal by the great

. Apostle Saint Peter, hath permitted fishing to churchmen, and forbidden hunting and hawking. And, indeed, to say that which is most probable, the food of fish is the best and soundest of all, for as much (as Aristotle saith) that it is not subject to any sickness [Rift. oj Beafls, viii. 9J, from whence cometh the common proverb: "Sounder than a fish." So that in the ancient hieroglyphics a fish is the symbol of health. Which notwithstanding, I would mean eaten whilst it is new, for otherwise (as Plautus saith), "Piscis nisi recens nequam efl," it is nothing worth.