Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Voices from the Past: Joseph Heely (1787)

The following poem was found by T. Westwood in the pages of a copy of Art of Angling, an 1806 publication by Bowlker. It is a charming poem about taking a salmon in the river Usk, near Crickhowell.

Poem on Taking a Salmon

Joseph Heely (1787)

'Twas May the second, eighty-seven.

The morning mild, and just eleven, 

When down to Usk I gaily trod

With winch and fly and line and rod; 

A soft and genial western breeze 

The water wav'd, and wav'd the trees.

Entranc'd, I view the lovely scenes 

That rise from woods or hills or plains,

Or gushing rills, in sportive play, 

As down the shelving rocks they stray, 

While low-tun'd birds on bush or wing

In rural concert jocund sing.

But when in view the rolling stream, 

The salmon's favourite haunt doth gleam, 

Unheeded then the woods, the hills, 

The birds, the plains, or gushing rills;

O'erjoyed with quicken'd step I move

To meet the sport I fondly love.

Where Yengolth's silver current ends,

And with the Usk her beauty blends;

Delighted there, with dext'rous art, 

The whizzing line around I dart— 

Now here, now there, with anxious mind, 

Nor leave one stream untry'd behind;

When in fam'd Cambolt pool at last— 

A Rise !—I strike—l hook him fast !

Not gladder Shobden's wealthy peer
Eyes his fat oxen or his deer;
Nor peeress, when her alms she gives,
Nor those her charity relieves;
Nor Gripus, when he views his store,
And counts and counts it o'er and o'er;
Nor Stella, just commene'd a bride,
Trimm'd out in all her nuptial pride,
Than I, to feel—O bliss divine !
A salmon flound'ring at my line.

Sullen at first he sinks to ground, 

Or rolls in eddies round and round,
Till more infiam'd he plunging sweeps, 

And from the shallow seeks the deeps; 

Then bends the rod, the winch then sings,
As down the stream he headlong springs; 

But turn'd with fiercer rage he boils, 

And plies, indignant, all his wiles, 

Yet vainly plies—his courage flown,
And all his mighty prowess gone.

I wind him up with perfect ease,

Or here, or there, or where l please, 

Till feeble and exhausted grown 

His glitt'ring silver sides are shown. 

Nor e'en one final plunge he tries, 

But at my feet a captive lies. 

His tail I grasp with eager hand, 

And swing with joy my prize to land.

-- Dr. Todd

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