James Russell Lowell
Lowell penned this poem to celebrate his friend John Bartlett
), owner of a bookstore serving Harvard University
and later a partner in a publishing firm. Bartlett was an avid angler
and author of Catalogue of Books on Angling, including Ichthyology, Pisciculture, Etc.
), but is best known as the compiler of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations
. Despite the numerous allusions
to the classical world, literary works, and fishing, it’s fairly straightforward, full of effusive praise for both the fish and his friend. I particularly like the line where he describes Bartlett’s end as “when Death hooks him”.
Fit for an Abbot of Theleme
For the whole Cardinals' College
himself to see in dream
Before his lenten
He lies there, the sogdologer
His precious flanks with stars besprent
Worthy to swim in Castaly
The friend by whom such gifts are sent,
For him shall bumper
s full be spent,
His health! be Luck his fast ally!
I see him trace the wayward brook
Amid the forest mysteries,
Where at their shades shy aspen
Or where, with many a gurgling crook,
It croons its woodland histories.
I see leaf-shade and sun-fleck lend
, sweet vicissitude
To smooth, dark pool, to crinkling bend,---
(Oh, stew him, Ann, as 't were your friend,
With amorous solicitude
I see him step with caution due,
Soft as if shod with moccasin
Grave as in church, for who plies you,
Sweet craft, is safe as in a pew
From all our common stock o' sins.
The unerring fly I see him cast,
That as a rose-leaf falls as soft,
A flash! a whirl! he has him fast!
s, how that struggle last
Confuses and appalls us oft.
Unfluttered he: calm as the sky
Looks on our tragi-comedies,
This way and that he lets him fly,
A sunbeam-shuttle, then to die
Lands him, with cool aplomb
, at ease.
The friend who gave our board such gust,
Life's care may he o'erstep it half,
And, when Death
hooks him, as he must,
He'll do it handsomely, I trust,
And John H--- write his epitaph
Oh, born beneath the Fishes' sign,
May he somewhere with Walton
send him Massic wine
And Burns Scotch
drink, the nappiest!
And when they come his deeds to weigh,
And how he used the talent
in the scales he'll lay
(If trout had scales), and 't will outsway
The wrong side of the balances.