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Fisherman's Luck and Some Other Uncertain Things   By: (1852-1933)

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by Henry van Dyke

"Now I conclude that not only in Physicke, but likewise in sundry more certaine arts, fortune hath great share in them."

M. DE MONTAIGNE: Divers Events.


Here is the basket; I bring it home to you. There are no great fish in it. But perhaps there may be one or two little ones which will be to your taste. And there are a few shining pebbles from the bed of the brook, and ferns from the cool, green woods, and wild flowers from the places that you remember. I would fain console you, if I could, for the hardship of having married an angler: a man who relapses into his mania with the return of every spring, and never sees a little river without wishing to fish in it. But after all, we have had good times together as we have followed the stream of life towards the sea. And we have passed through the dark days without losing heart, because we were comrades. So let this book tell you one thing that is certain. In all the life of your fisherman the best piece of luck is just YOU.


I. Fisherman's Luck

II. The Thrilling Moment

III. Talkability

IV. A Wild Strawberry

V. Lovers and Landscape

VI. A Fatal Success

VII. Fishing in Books

VIII. A Norwegian Honeymoon

IX. Who Owns the Mountains?

X. A Lazy, Idle Brook

XI. The Open Fire

XII. A Slumber Song


Has it ever fallen in your way to notice the quality of the greetings that belong to certain occupations?

There is something about these salutations in kind which is singularly taking and grateful to the ear. They are as much better than an ordinary "good day" or a flat "how are you?" as a folk song of Scotland or the Tyrol is better than the futile love ditty of the drawing room. They have a spicy and rememberable flavour. They speak to the imagination and point the way to treasure trove.

There is a touch of dignity in them, too, for all they are so free and easy the dignity of independence, the native spirit of one who takes for granted that his mode of living has a right to make its own forms of speech. I admire a man who does not hesitate to salute the world in the dialect of his calling.

How salty and stimulating, for example, is the sailorman's hail of "Ship ahoy!" It is like a breeze laden with briny odours and a pleasant dash of spray. The miners in some parts of Germany have a good greeting for their dusky trade. They cry to one who is going down the shaft, "Gluck auf!" All the perils of an underground adventure and all the joys of seeing the sun again are compressed into a word. Even the trivial salutation which the telephone has lately created and claimed for its peculiar use "Hello, hello" seems to me to have a kind of fitness and fascination. It is like a thoroughbred bulldog, ugly enough to be attractive. There is a lively, concentrated, electric air about it. It makes courtesy wait upon dispatch, and reminds us that we live in an age when it is necessary to be wide awake.

I have often wished that every human employment might evolve its own appropriate greeting. Some of them would be queer, no doubt; but at least they would be an improvement on the wearisome iteration of "Good evening" and "Good morning," and the monotonous inquiry, "How do you do?" a question so meaningless that it seldom tarries for an answer. Under the new and more natural system of etiquette, when you passed the time of day with a man you would know his business, and the salutations of the market place would be full of interest.

As for my chosen pursuit of angling (which I follow with diligence when not interrupted by less important concerns), I rejoice with every true fisherman that it has a greeting all its own and of a most honourable antiquity. There is no written record of its origin. But it is quite certain that since the days after the Flood, when Deucalion

"Did first this art invent Of angling, and his people taught the same,"

two honest and good natured anglers have never met each other by the way without crying out, "What luck?"

Here, indeed, is an epitome of the gentle art... Continue reading book >>

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