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shew the world that he could make soft and smooth
Come live with me, and be my love,
There will the river whisp'ring run,
When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
If thou, to be so seen, be'st loath,
Let others freeze with Angling-reeds,
And cut their legs with shells and weeds ;—
Or treach'rously poor fish beset,
With strangling snares, or windowy net:—
Let coarse bold hands, from slimy nest,
Let curious traitors sleave silk flies,
For thee, thou need'st no such deceit,
Pise. Well remembered, honest Scholar, I thank you for these choice verses, which I have heard formerly, but had quite forgot, till they were recovered by your happy memory. Well, being I have now rested myself a little, I will make you some requital, by telling you some observations of the Eel, for it rains still, and because, as you say, our Angles are as money put to use, that thrives when we play, therefore we'll sit still and enjoy ourselves a little longer under this honey-suckle-hedge.
Observations of the Eel, and other Fish that want scales, and how to fish for them.
It is agreed by most men, that the Eel is a most dainty fish; the Romans have esteemed her the Helena of their feasts, and some the Queen of palatepleasure. But most men differ about their breeding: some say they breed by generation as other fish do, and others, that they breed as some worms do, of mud, as rats and mice, and many other living creatures are bred in Egypt, by the Sun's heat when it shines upon the overflowing of the river Nilus: or out of the putrefaction of the earth, and divers other ways. Those that deny them to breed by generation as other fish do, ask, if any man ever saw an Eel to have a spawn or melt? and they are answered, that they may be as certain of their breeding as if they had seen them spawn: for they say, that they are certain that Eels have all parts fit for generation, like other fish, but so small as not to be easily discerned, by reason of their fatness, but that discerned they may be, and that the he and the she-Eel may be distinguished by their fins. And Rondeletius says, he has seen Eels cling together like dew-worms.
And others say, that Eels growing old, breed other Eels out of the corruption of their own age, which Sir Francis Bacon says, exceeds not ten years. And others say, that as pearls are made of glutinous dew-drops, which are condensed by the Sun's heat in those countries, so Eels are bred of a particular dew, falling in the months of May or June on the banks of some particular ponds or rivers,— apted by nature for that end,—which in a few days are by the Sun's heat turned into Eels; and some of the ancients have called the Eels that are thus bred, the Offspring of Jove. I have seen in the beginning of July, in a river not far from Canterbury, some parts of it covered over with young Eels, about the thickness of a straw; and these Eels did lie on the top of that water, as thick as motes are said to be in the Sun: and I have heard the like of other rivers, as namely in Severn,—where they are called Yelvers,—and in a pond or mere near unto Staffordshire, where about a set time in Summer, such small Eels abound so much, that many of the poorer sort of people, that inhabit near to it, take such Eels out of this mere, with sieves or sheets, and make a kind of Eel-cake of them, and eat it like as bread. And Gesner quotes Venerable Bede to say, that in England there is an Island called Ely, by reason of the innumerable number of Eels that breed in it. But that Eels may be bred as some worms, and some kind of Bees and Wasps are, either of dew, or out of the corruption of the earth, seems to be made probable by the Barnacles and young Goslings bred by the Sun's heat, and the rotten planks of an old Ship, and hatched of trees; both which are related for truths by Du Bartas and Lobel, and also by our learned Camden, and laborious Gerard in his Herbal.
It is said by Rondeletius, that those Eels that are bred in rivers that relate to, or be nearer to the sea, never return to the fresh waters, as the Salmon does always desire to do, when they have once tasted the salt-water; and I do the more easily believe this, because I am certain that powdered beef is a most excellent bait to catch an Eel: and though Sir Francis Bacon will allow the Eel's life to be but ten years, yet he, in his History of Life and Death, mentions a Lamprey belonging to the Roman Emperor to be made tame, and so kept for almost threescore years: and that such useful and pleasant observations were made of this Lamprey, that Crassus the Orator, who kept her, lamented her death. And we read in Doctor Hakewill, that Hortenmu was seen to weep at the death of a Lamprey that he had kept long, and loved exceedingly.
It is granted by all, or most men, that Eels, for about six months, that is to say, the six cold months of-the year, stir not up and down, neither in the rivers, nor in the pools in which they usually are, but get into the soft earth or mud, and there many of them together bed themselves, and live without feeding upon any thing, as I have told you some Swallows have been observed to do in hollow trees