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Izaak Walton, whose portrait of a country milkmaid may vie with “the shepherd's boy piping as though he should never grow old,” of the “ Arcadia.” Piscator and his scholar, Venator, are returning to their inn, after a day's angling. Venator says:
“Ven.-A match, good master: let's go to that house, for the linen looks white, and smells of lavender. Let's be going, good master, for I am hungry again with fishing.
“Pisc.-Nay, stay a little, good scholar. I caught my last trout with a worm, now I will put on a minnow, and try a quarter of an hour about yonder trees for another, and so walk towards our lodging. Look you, scholar, thereabouts we shall have a bite presently or not at all. Have with you, Sir! O my word I have hold of him. Oh it is a great lubber-headed chubb; come, hang him upon that willow twig, and let us be going. But turn out of the way a little, good scholar, towards yonder high honeysuckle hedge: there we'll sit and sing, whilst this shower falls so gently upon the teeming earth, and gives yet a sweeter smell to the lovely flowers that adorn these verdant meadows.
Look, under that broad beech-tree, I sate down when I was last here a fishing, and the birds in the adjoining grove seemed to have a friendly contention with an echo, whose dead voice seemed to live in a hollow tree, near to the brow of that primrose hill: there I sate viewing the silver streams glide silently towards their centre, the tempestuous sea, yet sometimes opposed by ragged roots and pebble-stones, which broke their waves, and turned them into foam : and sometimes I beguiled time by viewing the harmless lambs, some leaping securely in the cool shade, whilst others sported themselves in the cheerful sun, and saw others craving comfort from the swollen udders of their bleating dams. As I thus sat, these and other sights had so fully possessed my soul with content, that I thought, as the poet has happily expressed it,
“I was for that time lifted above earth,
And possessed joys not promised at my birth. “As I left this place, and entered the next field, a second pleasure entertained me. It was a handsome milkmaid, that had not yet attained so much age and wisdom as to load her mind with any fears of many things that will never be, as too many men often do; but she cast away care,
a nightingale: her voice was good, and the ditty fitted for it. It was that smooth song, which was made by Kit Marlowe, now at least fifty years ago; and the milkmaid's mother sung an answer to it, which was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in my younger days.
“They were old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good ; I think much better than the strong lines that are now in fashion at this critical age. Look yonder! On my word, yonder they both be a milking again. I will give her the chubb, and persuade them to sing those two songs to us.
“God speed you, good woman ! I have been a fishing, and am going to Bleak Hall to my bed, and having caught more fish than will sup myself and my friend, I will bestow this upon you and your daughter, for I use to sell none.
“Milk-woman.—Marry, God requite you, Sir, and we'll eat it cheerfully; and if you come this way a fishing two months hence, a grace of God I'll give you a syllabub of new verjuice in a new-made haycock for it; and my Maudlin shall sing you one of her best ballads, for she and I both love all anglers, they be such honest, civil, quiet men; in the meantime, will you drink a draught of red cow's milk ? You shall have it freely !
" Pisc.—No, I thank you ; but I pray you do us a courtesy that shall stand you and your daughter in nothing, and yet we will think ourselves still something in your debt. It is but to sing us a song that was sung by your daughter when I last passed over this meadow, eight or nine days since.
“ Milk-woman.—What song was it, I pray? Was it, 'Come, shepherds, deck your herds ?' or As, at noon, Dulcina rested ?' or Phillida flouts me?' or Chevy Chase ?' or • Johnny Armstrong ?' or Troy Town ??
“ Pisc.—No, it is none of those. It is a song that your daughter sang the first part, and you sang the answer to it.
“ Milk-woman.—0, I kuow it now. I learned the first part in my golden age, when I was about the age of my poor daugh
r; and the latter part, which indeed fits me best now, but two or three years ago, when the cares of the world began to take hold of me. But you shall, God willing, hear them both, and sung as well as we can, for we both love anglers. Come, Maudlin, sing the first part to the gentlemen, with a merry heart, and I'll sing the second when you have done.
THE MILKMAID'S SONG.
And see the shepherds feed our flocks
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And then a thousand fragrant posies,
Embroidered o'er with leaves of myrtle
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Prepared each day for thee and me.
For thy delight each May-morning :
“Ven.—Trust me, master, it is a choice song, and sweetly sung by honest Maudlin. I now see it was not without cause that our good Queen Elizabeth did so often wish herself a milkmaid all the month of May, because they are not troubled with fears and cares, but sing sweetly all the day and sleep securely all the night, and without doubt honest, innocent, pretty Maudlin does so. I'll bestow Sir Thomas Overbury's milkmaid's wish upon her, “That she may die in the spring, and, being dead, may have good store of flowers stuck round about her winding-sheet.
THE MILKMAID'S MOTHER'S ANSWER.
“But time drives ilocks from field to fold,
Wben rivers rage and rocks grow cold
Thy cap, thy kirtle and thy posies
Which God hath blest and sent for food.
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
To live with thee and be thy love. “ Mother.-Well, I have done my song.”
And a delicious song it is. Certainly it was not amongst the least of the many excellencies of Izaak Walton's charming book, that he helped to render popular so many pure and beautiful lyrics. Marlowe's poem, indeed, could never die, for it had been quoted by Shakespeare ; but Sir Walter Raleigh's reply is still finer.
We wonder, in reading the milkwoman's list of songs and ballads, which looks like a table of contents to one of the books into which Bishop Percy divided his volumes, whether the country lasses of those days—southern lasses, too, for the colloquy passes upon the banks of the Lea-did actually sing border war-songs, like “ Chevy Chase,” or classical legends, like “ Troy Town." I fear me that their more lettered successors would select very inferior specimens of lyrical composition.
I must add one more extract, if only for the sake of “ holy Mr. Herbert's" four stanzas :
“ And now, scholar, my direction for fly-fishing is ended with this shower, for it has done raining: and now look about you, and see how pleasantly that meadow looks ; nay, and the earth smells as sweetly too. Come, let me tell you what holy Mr. Herbert
says of such days and flowers as these ; and then we will thank God that we enjoy them, and walk to the river, and sit down quietly and try to catch the other brace of trouts :
“Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
For thou must die.
And thou must die.
And all must die.
Then chiefly lives.”
Besides “ The Complete Angler," Izaak Walton has left us a volume, containing four or five lives of eminent men, quite as fine as that great Pastoral, although in a very different way His life of Dr. Donne, the satirist and theologian, contains an account of a vision (the apparition of a beloved wife in England, passing before the waking eyes of her husband in Paris), which, both for the clearness of the narration and the undoubted authenticity of the event, is amongst the most interesting that is to be found in the long catalogue of supernatural visitations.
EVERY one of any imagination-every one at all addicted to that grand art of dreaming with the eyes open, and building what are called castles in the air-has, I suppose, his own peculiar realm of dreamland, his own chosen country, his own favourite period; and from my earliest hour of fanciful idle