IN LIGHTER VEIN
POOLS AND RIPPLES. By Bliss Perry. Little, Brown Co., Boston, 1927. $2.00
"ANGLING is somewhat like poetry, men are to be born so," said Izaak Walton; and Bliss Perry's three essays on fishing seem abundant proof of this statement. Only a born angler could write with such gusto, or make the subject seem so alive to the reader. Three essays--"Fishing with a Worm," "Fishing with a Fly," and "Revisiting a River"--make up this book; all appeared in the Atlantic Monthly.
One expects something different from Professor Perry. Characteristically he has written a preface, entitled "The Author's Apology," in an age that has forgotten apologies for such titles as "Tramping on Life." More important, and infinitely pleasing, is the contrast between the tranquil vigor of his prose and the flurried bristling style affected by so many modern essayists.
Of these essays, "Fishing with a Worm," long an angler's classic, remains the best. Perhaps it is inevitable that a defense of the under-dog, or of the worm, should have the greatest appeal, for as he says:
"Fly fishing has had enough sacred poets celebrating it already. Isn't there a good deal to be said, after all, for fishing with a worm?"
"Could there be a more illogical proceeding? And here follows the treatise--a Defense of results, an Apology for Opportunism--conceived in agreeable procrastination, devoted to the inconsequential angle-worm, and dedicated to a childish memory of a whistling carpenter and his fat dog."
To anglers luckless with the fly this essay has proved a great boon. What if it did ruin the author's reputation as a fisherman? Although "Fishing with a Fly" and "Revisiting a River" contain the same charm, the same dry humor and lucid beautiful prose, they can not surpass this defense of the amateur fisherman. Why, I can not say, for such a paragraph as this lacks nothing:
"The twilights are long here, and after the tents were pitched on the bluff and supper eaten in the cabin, there was light enough to hook--and lose--the first salmon. As it slowly darkened, the nighthawks began to circle above the stream, the deer stole out to drink, and ripples along the faster water began to weave their fantastic patterns of black velvet shot with silver. A whippoorwill, the first I remember hearing as far north as this, is calling from the birches behind the tents. The thermometer registers 43, and we crawl into our sleeping bags and listen for a few happy minutes to the roar of the river--and the next thing I knew, a golden-coated three-year-old buck is pawing and snorting just outside the tent, in the broad morning sunshine. We have come home."
I suspect this book will seem a trifle old-fashioned to many people. Towards the end of each essay there is a tendency towards gentle moralizing; pervading them is a keen contagious love of nature and of simple things. For most readers it should furnish an excellent after Divisionals tonic.