Indeed, in many and many a tramp, the best sporting has been done on my back. Flat under a tree I lay, a vast Brobdignag, upon whom grasshoppers mounted, and glossy crickets crept, harmless and unharmed, with evident speculation upon what such a phenomenon could portend. Along the stems creep aspiring ants, searching with fiery zeal for no one can even guess what. They race up that they may race down again. They are full of mysterious signs to each other. They knock heads, touch antennae, and then off they rush fuller of minute zeal than ever.
The blue-jay is in the tree above you. The woodpecker screws round and round the trunk, hammering at every place like an auscult·doctor sounding a patient's lungs. Little birds fly in and out gibbering to each other in sweet detached sentences, confidentially talking over their family secrets, and expressing those delicate sentiments which one never speaks except in a whisper, and in twilight. When you rise, the birds flutter and fly, and clouds of insects flash off from you like sparks from a fire when a log rolls over.
The brook that gurgles past the tree, feeding its roots, and taking its pay in summer shadows, varied every hour, receives a portion of the off-jumping fry. For a grasshopper, unlike a bomb, goes off without calculating where it shall fall. Far off its coming shines. Before it had even touched the water, that bold trout sprung sparkling from the surface and sunk as soon, leaving only a few bubbles to float away. There! If the trout has a right to his grasshopper, have I not a right to the trout?
I'll have him! After several throws, I find that it takes two to make a bargain.
At length one must go home. I never turn from the silence of the underbrush, or the solitude of the fields, or the rustlings of the forest, without a certain sadness as if I were going away from friends.
But we shall be deemed superficial if we leave it to be believed that this is a fair exposure of the joys of fishing. What have we said of mountain brooks, and the grandeur of dark gorges, where one is well nigh in a trance, and almost forgets to drop his bait; or does it mechanically, and draws forth a fish as if it were a very solemn deed. What have we said of seafishing, a snug boat, a smart breeze, a long and strong line ending with a squid. We sweep along the flashing waters as if racing. A blue-fish strikes the glittering, whirling squid, with a stroke that sends electricity along the line into the hands of him that holds it, as you would believe if you saw the sprightliness with which he hauls in his Line. Back and forth you sweep the waters, your boat apparently as much alive as you are, and enjoying as much!
Then you lie under some fragment of a boat, or upon some dry seaweeds, while your distant dinner is sputtering and reeking in the kitchen of the rude hotel, used only in summer, by people seeking health or amusement, in out-of-the-way fishing places. 0, how the heavens swell roundly out, and lift themselves up, with a wild attraction, that makes you gasp, as one sighs and gasps who is deeply thinking of some profound horror! The sea is running out in fiery lines, crossed by the sun, on every wave-swell; white sails lie cloudily against the distant horizon, and dim and spectre-like, as they are, how they open the whole world of islands and continents to the imagination, whence they come, or whither they are going. But the dinner-horn sounds, and sea, heavens, islands and continents, ships with homesick voyagers, sink down like a dream in the morning, and we make haste to the universally respected duty of eating. There is no prejudice against that. Sober men, careful, earnest men, yea, all of them eat, and as zealously as the flippant and the careless.
Then comes the going down of the sun. The boat puts us across the main land. The wind has gone down. The surface is clear and level. Shadows from the land fall far over on the bay, and the light that yet plays upon the surface is ruddy and mellow. The oar is thoughtful, and dips and rises gently. At each pull the oarsmen pause, and musical drops, through which the light flashes, trickle back to the deep whence they had risen. Each drop is a sphere, and in each sphere might have arisen the mother of beauty, liquid Venus Anadyomene. And so came we into life, and so sink away from it, into the great Eternal Sea.