Kent Coast Sea Fishing Compendium


Casus ubique valet; semper tibi pendeat hamus:
Quo minime credas gurgite, piscis erit.

Chance everywhere; always dangle your bait.
The least likely pool, the fish will be.

Ovid, The Art of Love, Book 3 (2 A.D.)

Publius Ovidius Naso, Artis Amatoriae iii, 425

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

Pericles, Prince of Tyre: Act 2, Scene 1

3rd Fisherman: Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.
1st Fisherman: Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.

John Milton (1608 - 1674)

Sonnet 12: "On the Same" (1645 - 6)

I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known rules of ancient liberty,
When straight a barbarous noise environs me
Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs;
As when those hinds that were transformed to frogs
Railed at Latona's twin-born progeny,
Which after held the Sun and Moon in fee.
But this is got by casting pearl to hogs,
That bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
And still revolt when Truth would set them free.
Licence they mean when they cry Liberty;
For who loves that must first be wise and good:
But from that mark how far they rove we see,
For all this waste of wealth and loss of blood.

Editor's note: Milton wrote Sonnet 12, probably in early 1646, as a satirical response to the negative reception by Presbyterian ministers (mostly Scottish), Puritans and Episcopalians to his four divorce tracts: The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643), The Judgment of Martin Bucer (1644), Tetrachordon (1645) and Colasterion (1645). In what scans like a Petrarchan sonnet (octave abba abba + sestet cbbc bc), Milton responds with ridicule and sarcasm to those who attacked his treatises from the pulpit and pokes fun at the ignorance of those who can neither pronounce the title nor follow the arguments.

Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

The Journal of a Modern Lady
In a letter to a person of quality (1728)

Quoted, in part, at page 478 of Prose Halieutics or Ancient and Modern Fish Tattle (1854) Reverend Charles David Badham M.D.

"Now voices over voices rise,
While each to be the loudest vies:
They contradict, affirm, dispute,
No single tongue one moment mute;
All mad to speak and none to hearken,
They set the very lap-dog barking;
Their chattering makes a louder din
Than fish-wives o'er a cup of gin;"

Bryan Waller Procter (1787 - 1874) aka Barry Cornwall

The Sea

THE SEA! the sea! the open sea!
The blue, the fresh, the ever free!
Without a mark, without a bound,
It runneth the earth's wide regions round;
It plays with the clouds; it mocks the skies;
Or like a cradled creature lies.

I'm on the sea! I'm on the sea!
I am where I would ever be;
With the blue above, and the blue below,
And silence wheresoe'er I go;
If a storm should come and awake the deep,
What matter? I shall ride and sleep.

I love, oh, how I love to ride
On the fierce, foaming, bursting tide,
When every mad wave drowns the moon,
Or whistles aloft his tempest tune,
And tells how goeth the world below,
And why the sou'west blasts do blow.

I never was on the dull, tame shore,
But I loved the great sea more and more,
And backwards flew to her billowy breast,
Like a bird that seeketh its mother’s nest;
And a mother she was, and is, to me;
For I was born on the open sea!

The waves were white, and red the morn,
In the noisy hour when I was born;
And the whale it whistled, the porpoise rolled,
And the dolphins bared their backs of gold;
And never was heard such an outcry wild
As welcomed to life the ocean-child!

I've lived since then, in calm and strife,
Full fifty summers, a sailor's life,
With wealth to spend and a power to range,
But never have sought nor sighed for change;
And Death, whenever he comes to me,
Shall come on the wild, unbounded sea!

James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784 - 1859)

The Fish, the Man, and the Spirit (1836)

To a fish

You strange, astonished-looking, angle-faced,
Dreary-mouthed, gaping wretches of the sea,
Gulping salt-water everlastingly,
Cold-blooded, though with red your blood be graced,
And mute, though dwellers in the roaring waste;
And you, all shapes beside, that fishy be -
Some round, some flat, some long, all devilry,
Legless, unloving, infamously chaste -

O scaly, slippery, wet, swift, staring wights,
What is't ye do? what life lead? eh, dull goggles?
How do ye vary your vile days and nights?
How pass your Sundays? Are ye still but joggles
In ceaseless wash? Still nought but gapes, and bites,
And drinks, and stares, diversified with boggles?

A fish answers

Amazing monster! that, for aught I know,
With the first sight of thee didst make our race
Forever stare! Oh flat and shocking face,
Grimly divided from the breast below!
Thou that on dry land horribly dost go
With a split body and most ridiculous pace,
Prong after prong, disgracer of all grace,
Long-useless-finned, haired, upright, unwet, slow!

O breather of unbreathable, sword-sharp air,
How canst exist? How bear thyself, thou dry
And dreary sloth? What particle canst share
Of the only blessed life, the watery?
I sometimes see of ye an actual pair
Go by! linked fin by fin! most odiously.

The fish turns into a man, and then into a spirit, and again speaks

Indulge thy smiling scorn, if smiling still,
O man! and loathe, but with a sort of love;
For difference must its use by difference prove,
And, in sweet clang, the spheres with music fill.
One of the spirits am I, that at his will
Live in whate'er has life - fish, eagle, dove -
No hate, no pride, beneath nought, nor above,
A visitor of the rounds of God's sweet skill.

Man's life is warm, glad, sad, 'twixt loves and graves,
Boundless in hope, honoured with pangs austere,
Heaven-gazing; and his angel-wings he craves:
The fish is swift, small-needing, vague yet clear,
A cold, sweet, silver life, wrapped in round waves,
Quickened with touches of transporting fear.

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 - 1863)

The Ballad of Bouillabaisse

A STREET there is in Paris famous,
For which no rhyme our language yields,
Rue Neuve des Petits Champs its name is
The New Street of the Little Fields;
And here's an inn, not rich and splendid,
But still in comfortable case;
The which in youth I oft attended,
To eat a bowl of Bouillabaisse.

This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is
A sort of soup or broth, or brew,
Or hotchpotch, of all sorts of fishes,
That Greenwich never could outdo;
Green herbs, red peppers, mussels, saffern,
Soles, onions, garlic, roach, and dace;
All these you eat at Terré's tavern,
In that one dish of Bouillabaisse.

Indeed, a rich and savoury stew 'tis;
And true philosophers, methinks,
Who love all sorts of natural beauties,
Should love good victuals and good drinks.
And Cordelier or Benedictine
Might gladly, sure, his lot embrace,
Nor find a fast-day too afflicting
Which served him up a Bouillabaisse.

I wonder if the house still there is?
Yes, here the lamp is, as before;
The smiling red-cheek'd écaillère is
Still opening oysters at the door.
Is Terré still alive and able?
I recollect his droll grimace;
He'd come and smile before your table,
And hope you liked your Bouillabaisse.

We enter - nothing's changed or older.
"How's Monsieur Terré, waiter, pray?"
The waiter stares and shrugs his shoulder -
"Monsieur is dead this many a day."
"It is the lot of saint and sinner,
So honest Terré's run his race!"
"What will Monsieur require for dinner?"
"Say, do you still cook Bouillabaisse?"

"Oh, oui, Monsieur, 's the waiter's answer;
"Quel vin Monsieur dèsire-t-il?"
"Tell me a good one." - "That I can, Sir:
The Chambertin with yellow seal."
"So Terré's gone," I say, and sink in
My old accustom'd corner-place;
"He's done with feasting and with drinking,
With Burgundy and Bouillabaisse."

My old accustom'd corner here is,
The table still is in the nook;
Ah! vanish'd many a busy year is,
This well-known chair since last I took.
When first I saw ye, cari luoghi,
I'd scarce a beard upon my face,
And now a grizzled, grim old fogy,
I sit and wait for Bouillabaisse.

Where are you, old companions trusty,
Of early days, here met to dine?
Come, waiter! quick, a flagon crusty -
I'll pledge them in the good old wine.
The kind old voices and old faces
My memory can quick retrace;
Around the board they take their places,
And share the wine and Bouillabaisse.

There's Jack has made a wondrous marriage;
There's laughing Tom is laughing yet;
There's brave Augustus drives his carriage;
There's poor old Fred in the Gazette;
On James's head the grass is growing:
Good Lord! the world has wagged apace
Since here we set the Claret flowing,
And drank, and ate the Bouillabaisse.

Ah me! how quick the days are flitting!
I mind me of a time that's gone,
When here I'd sit, as now I'm sitting,
In this same place - but not alone.
A fair young form was nestled near me,
A dear, dear face looked fondly up,
And sweetly spoke and smiled to cheer me
- There's no one now to share my cup.

I drink it as the Fates ordain it.
Come, fill it, and have done with rhymes:
Fill up the lonely glass, and drain it
In memory of dear old times.
Welcome the wine, whate'er the seal is;
And sit you down and say your grace
With thankful heart, whate'er the meal is.
- Here comes the smoking Bouillabaisse!

John Masefield (1878 - 1967)

Sea Fever (Salt-Water Ballads, 1902)

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Denys Watkins-Pitchford (aka 'BB') 1905 - 1990

Tide's Ending (1950)

See where those leaning poplars stand
Along the far sea wall?
That is the outpost of the land,
There is the end of all,
Geese in skein, and the sound again
Of their clanging bugles blending,
Samphire scent, and a great content
In the place I call Tide's Ending.

Follow the sheep tracks' winding thread,
Drawn deep the dawn wind blowing,
All the world is grey and dead,
Only the tide is flowing,
Curlews call from the dim sea wall,
We'll take what the gods are sending,
The first gulls come, the flights begun
In the place I call Tide's Ending.

Mark yon wheel of the Bar Point light
Uneasy in the gloaming,
Timid spark in the womb of night,
Guide for a curlew's homing,
Whistle of wings and ghostly things
Beyond all comprehending,
Tang of the sea, and a soul set free
In the place I call Tide's Ending.