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Chapter 19. OF SEVERAL RIVERS, AND SOME OBSERVATIONS OF FISH
PISCATOR. Well, Scholar, since the ways and weather do both favor us, and that we yet see not Tottenham Cross, you shall see my willingness to satisfy your desire. And, first, for the rivers of this nation: there be, as you may note out of Doctor Heylin's Geography and others, in number three hundred and twenty-five; but those of chiefest note he reckons and describes as followeth.
1. The chief is THAMISIS, compounded of two rivers, Thame and Isis: whereof the former, rising somewhat beyond Thame in Buckinghamshire, and the latter near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, meet together about Dorchester in Oxfordshire; the issue of which happy conjunction is the Thamisis, or Thames. Hence it flieth betwixt Berks, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, and Essex, and so weddeth himself to the Kentish Medway in the very jaws of the ocean. This glorious river feeleth the violence and benefit of the sea more than any river in Europe; ebbing and flow ing twice a day more than sixty miles: about whose banks are so many fair towns, and princely palaces, that a German poet thus truly spake: —
Tot campos, etc.
We saw so many woods and princely bowers,
Sweet fields, brave palaces, and stately towers,
So many gardens, dressed with curious care,
That Thames with royal Tiber may compare.
2. The second river of note is SABRINA or SEVERN. It hath its beginning in Plinlimmon Hill in Montgomeryshire, and his end seven miles from Bristol; washing, in the mean space, the walls of Shrewsbury, Worcester, and Gloucester, and divers other places and palaces of note.
3. TRENT, so called from thirty kind of fishes that are found in it, or for that it receiveth thirty lesser rivers; who, having his fountain in Staffordshire, and gliding through the counties of Nottingham, Lincoln, Leicester, and York, augmenteth the turbulent current of Humber, the most violent stream of all the isle. This Humber is not, to say truth, a distinct river, having a spring-head of his own, but it is rather the mouth, or æstuarium, of divers rivers here confluent and meeting together: namely, your Derwent, and especially of Ouse and Trent; and (as the Danow, having received into its channel the rivers Dravus, Savus, Tibiscus, and divers others) changeth his name into this of Humberabus, as the old geographers call it.
4. MEDWAY, a Kentish river, famous for harboring the royal navy.
5. TWEED, the northeast bound of England, on whose northern banks is seated the strong and impregnable town of Berwick.
6. TYNE, famous for Newcastle, and her inexhaustible coal-pits. These, and the rest of principal note, are thus comprehended in one of Mr. Drayton's Sonnets.
Our floods' queen, Thames, for ships and swans is crowned;
And stately Severn for her shore is praised;
The crystal Trent for fords and fish renowned;
And Avon's fame to Albion's cliffs is raised.
Carlegion-chester vaunts her holy Dee;
York many wonders of her Ouse can tell;
The Peak her Dove, whose banks so fertile be,
And Kent will say her Medway doth excel.
Cotswold commends her Isis to the Thame;
Our northern borders boast of Tweed's fair flood;
Our western parts extol their Willy's fame,
And the old Lea brags of the Danish blood.
These observations are out of learned Dr. Heylin, and my old deceased friend, Michael Drayton; and because you say you love such discourses as these of rivers and fish and fishing, I love you the better, and love the more to impart them to you: nevertheless, Scholar, if I should begin but to name the several sorts of strange fish that are usually taken in many of those rivers that run into the sea, I might beget wonder in you, or unbelief, or both: and yet I will venture to tell you a real truth concerning one lately dissected by Dr. Wharton, a man of great learning and experience, and of equal freedom to communicate it; one that loves me and my art; one to whom I have been beholden for many of the choicest observations that I have imparted to you. This good man, that dares do anything rather than tell an untruth, did, I say, tell me he lately dissected one strange fish, and he thus described it to me.
"The fish was almost a yard broad, and twice that length; his mouth wide enough to receive or take into it the head of a man; his stomach seven or eight inches broad. He is of a slow motion, and usually lies or lurks close in the mud, and has a movable string on his head about a span, or near unto a quarter of a yard long, by the moving of which, which is his natural bait, when he lies close and unseen in the mud, he draws other smaller fish so close to him that he can suck them into his mouth, and so devours and digests them."
And, Scholar, do not wonder at this, for, besides the credit of the relator, you are to note, many of these, and fishes which are of the like and more unusual shapes, are very often taken on the mouths of our sea-rivers, and on the sea-shore. And this will be no wonder to any that have travelled Egypt; where 'tis known the famous river Nilus does not only breed fishes that yet want names, but, by the overflowing of that river, and the help of the sun's heat on the fat slime which that river leaves on the banks, when it falls back into its natural channel, such strange fish and beasts are also bred, that no man can give a name to, as Grotius, in his "Sophom," and others, have observed.
But whither am I strayed in this discourse? I will end it by telling you, that at the mouth of some of these rivers of ours Herrings are so plentiful, as namely, near to Yarmouth in Norfolk, and in the West-country Pilchers so very plentiful, as you will wonder to read what our learned Camden relates of them in his "Britannia," pp. 178, 186. Well, Scholar, I will stop here, and tell you what by reading and conference I have observed concerning fish ponds.