Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voices from the Past: Isaac McLellan (1886)

Isaac McLelllan was the resident poet of the early American Angler, contributing dozens of pieces from the early 1880s to the 1890s. They were eventually collected into a charming little book called Poems of the Rod and Gun where Will Wildwood (the noted F.E. Pond) wrote an appreciation of him. McLellan was a friend and correspondent of Henry W. Longfellow and wrote the poems for Genio Scott's famed Fishing in American Waters. Here is one of my favorite of his poems.


WHEN this old rod was new,
'Twas in the vanish'd time,
When step was light and eye was bright,
And youth was in its prime. 

Oh! bright were then the skies
In the glory of the dawn, 

When the dews that gemm'd the grass 

Shone in the rosy morn.

Then oped the garden gate,
And down the bowery lane,
Hedg'd in with elm and chestnut,
My hasty path was ta'en;
And to the brawling brooks
That thro' the meadows twine
I hurried fast, with heart elate,
With the new rod and line.

When this old rod was new,
Full oft by the mill-dam edge,
Where the water-lilies grew
And the cat-tails and the sedge,
I stood on the bank, and threw
My line for the perch and bream,
In the cool, transparent stream,
When this old rod was new.

And up where the mountain brook
Pour'd swift over stone and sand,
Over yellow sand and crystal stone
I've stood with this rod in hand.
Then, where the dark eddies whirl'd,
In the shadow of pine and yew,
I cast my silken tackle
When this old rod was new.

I knew that under the bank,
Where deep was the pool scoop'd out,
Where the black tree-roots were hidden,
There lurk'd the spotted trout.
Then cautious and muffled my step,
And skilful the cast that I threw,
And glorious the captive prizes
When this old rod was new.

And oft on the ocean border,
Where the salt sea-surges beat,
On weedy and slippery boulder,
Have I stood my daring feet;
And there from profound abysses
The bass from their caves I drew,
Rejoicing in my triumphs
When this old rod was new.

And now that the silver circlet 

Of Time on my head is laid,
And years with their wintry blossoms 

My furrow'd brow invade,
I still by the brook and the seaside,
Those early sports renew,
And find the pastime as pleasant
As when this old rod was new.

-- Dr. Todd

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