Archive for the ‘The Environment’ Category

A.A. Luce on “The Fisherman,” by W.B. Yeats.

October 27, 2018

Yeats in 1908. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn

Irish poet William Butler Yeats, winner of the 1923 Nobel prize in literature, published “The Fisherman” in 1919. In the poem, Yeats describes his past observation of a fly fisherman. In his memory, this man represents a simple life, free from the daily pressures most of us face. No doubt, Yeats faced serious pressures, indeed; when he wrote “The Fisherman,” he was already a successful poet and felt many demands upon his time and talents. And he had been deeply involved in Irish nationalism and would immerse himself in politics again, in the future.
I share the poem, below. Following it is commentary upon its meaning by A.A. Luce. Importantly, Luce was a philosopher and a fly fisher, himself.
“The Fisherman”
Although I can see him still—
The freckled man who goes
To a gray place on a hill
In gray Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies—
It’s long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I’d looked in the face
What I had hoped it would be
To write for my own race
And the reality:
The living men that I hate,
The dead man that I loved,
The craven man in his seat,
The insolent unreproved—
And no knave brought to book
Who has won a drunken cheer—
The witty man and his joke
Aimed at the commonest ear,
The clever man who cries
The catch cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.
Maybe a twelve-month since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man,
And his sun-freckled face
And gray Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark with froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream—
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, “Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.
A.A. Luce, as a professor at Trinity College Dublin, was a colleague and acquaintance of Yeats’. In his remarkable Fishing and Thinking (Swan Hill, 1959), he wonders why Yeats chose to write about an angler:
Why did he pitch on angling, of all occupations? Why did he idealize the angler? It could not have been an accident. He must have found something in his own angling that answered a felt need. Was it objectivity, the sense of control by the object? The artistic imagination is in special need of such control and values it. When one’s sense of reality is perturbed, and the line between the real and the imaginary wavers, and perhaps the point approaches when “nothing is but what is not”, a day on a river is wonderful cure. It takes us out of ourselves, and confronts us with the comforting blank wall of something not ourselves, and confronts us with the comforting blank wall of something not ourselves, to which our sensing, imagining, thinking and action must conform. The sanity of the angler’s outlook commends angling to the sick in mind.  …. The fresh air, the open spaces, the physical exercise, the nature of the occupation and the objectivity of the chase combine to make angling a sedative and a general tonic for the occupational dis-ease of the man of letters. (83)
I like Yeats’ poem, despite what feels to me like a bit of whining on its author’s part. I have faced my share of challenges, but my life is filled with blessings. One of them is the fact that I can fish regularly. As Luce suggests and perhaps as Yeats felt too, I find “the real” when I fish or otherwise spend time free from many of expectations and requirement placed upon me by those with whom I have very little meaningful connection. I was interested to hear a guest lecturer in my angling literature course say much the same thing this last week, and I wonder how many others feel the same. Regardless, I look forward to a good sleep and to experiencing reminders of what is “real’ tomorrow on the stream.
Addendum (11/5/18):  I found mention of Yeats in this essay on occult bookstores, published this morning, to be intriguing: “Reading the Occult,” by Neil Armstrong.

Another year, another Angling Literature Syllabus

August 20, 2018

Following is this semester’s syllabus for my angling literature course. Suggestions are always welcome (as are visitors).

 

Religion, Sport, and Water: Contemplation and Play in “Nature”

HONORS 380.3, Fall 2018
Class Time: TU,TH 9:10 AM-10:25 PM
Class Location: Todd Hall 324
Professor: Ken Lokensgard
Office: Plateau Center for Native American Programs, Cleveland 23A
Phone: 509-335-1055
E-mail: kenneth.lokensgard@wsu.edu
Office Hours: TU,TH 10:30 AM-12:00 PM and by appointment.

Depiction of Juliana Berners. Lithograph by William Nicholson, 1898.

 DESCRIPTION AND GOALS OF COURSE

 This course is an introduction to the literary history, religious significance, and socio-cultural impact of fishing.  Students will read historically and culturally important texts ranging from those written in Ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, and in contemporary North America.  All of these texts emphasize a relationship between religious experience, fishing, and the environment.  We will explore this relationship, considering the cultural settings of each text while also learning about the overlapping aesthetic, ritual, and ecological dimensions ascribed to fishing—particularly fly fishing—by some of the most notable writers and intellectuals in European and Euro-American history.  For comparisons’ sake, we will briefly examine religion and fishing in cultures outside of the European and North American literary worlds, as well.  In addition to fishing literature, students will read relevant theoretical texts on religious experience, conservation, ecology, “play,” and “nature.”

As a whole, this course will serve as a focused study of the role that the extra-human environment and religious practice play in European, North American, and other cultural contexts.  Thus, the course will introduce students to literature and ways of thinking that can be applied to any implicitly or explicitly religious phenomena that are practiced in so-called “natural” places.  Moreover, the course will introduce students to the often religious significance that conservation and other ecologically informed practices play in the lives of many contemporary people.

This course is both reading and writing intensive.  Most of the readings, however, were originally written for a popular audience.  Also, the writing assignments will allow the student to incorporate his or her own, carefully examined reactions to these readings in his or her papers and essays.  Therefore, this class is intended to be entertaining and engaging.  Yet, it is designed for the student who is willing to consider religion within its broadest contours, who can devote concerted time to readings, and who is willing to engage in regular and thoughtful writing.  If you are not such a student, then, this course is not designed for you.

The following table identifies specific learning goals (“LG”) to be achieved by the student:

  At the end of this course, students should be able to: This objective will be evaluated primarily by: Assignments and Activities  advancing students toward these learning goals:
LG1 Demonstrate a firm command of the theories used to explain the social significance of play. Classroom discussions, reaction papers, and essay exams. Readings and discussion of important anthropological, philosophical, and religious studies theories (weeks 2, 5, 9, 12).
LG2 Think critically about the concept of “nature” and its construction in Euro-American thought. Classroom discussions, reaction papers, and essay exams. Readings and discussions of anthropological literature, the views of angling authors, and reflections upon Euro-American ontology (weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15).
LG3 Analyze the religious significance that many people ascribe to activities that take place outside the confines of “conventional” religion. Classroom discussions and final paper.  Readings about and discussions of  ritual, religious experience, and “religion” (weeks 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).

Please note that Washington State University is committed to maintaining a safe environment for its faculty, staff, and students. Safety is the responsibility of every member of the campus community and individuals should know the appropriate actions to take when an emergency arises. In support of our commitment to the safety of the campus community the University has developed a Campus Safety Plan, http://safetyplan.wsu.edu. It is highly recommended that you visit this web site as well as the University emergency management web site at http://oem.wsu.edu/ to become familiar with the information provided.

ASSIGNED READINGS and OTHER RESOURCES

Required Books:

Walton, Izaak and Charles Cotton, ed. Marjorie Swann, The Compleat Angler (New York: Oxford University Press, USA: World’s Classics, 2014).
Maclean, Norman, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).
Duncan, David James, The River Why (New York: Back Bay Books, 2016)

Other readings are listed in the tentative schedule and will be accessible online, via the course’s Blackboard site. These readings include excerpts from the following:

Luce, A.A., Fishing and Thinking (Shrewsbury, UK: Swan Hill Press, 2002).
Snyder, Sam, Borgelt, Bryon, Tobey, Elizabeth, Backcasts: A Global History of Fly Fishing and Conservation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 2016).

Films, Guest Lectures, and other activities will serve as important resources. 

The films are listed in the tentative schedule, below. Informal guest lectures will be delivered by regional artists, authors, and anglers at dates to be announced.  Each guest will address the aesthetic and “spiritual” dimensions of fly fishing, from his or her perspective as a craftsperson or author. We will also visit the Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections reading room to examine exceptionally rare editions of texts read or discussed in class, which are part of the Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Collection. Among these texts are several first and other 17th c. editions of The Compleat Angler.

Please note this course is designed to help students develop their critical reading and writing skills. Specific methods of critical reading and writing will be discussed in class at opportune times.  You are also strongly encouraged to make use of the instructor’s office hours and of the Undergraduate Writing Center in Smith CUE 303.

REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING

Four three-page critical reaction papers will be submitted throughout the semester. Papers should be written in a 12 point font with 1 inch margins.  Each of these papers is worth 5 percent of your total grade (5 points each).  There will be two exams, which will include short answer and essay questions.  Each exam is worth 20 percent of the total course grade (20 points each).  Toward the end of the semester, a twelve-page paper, analyzing the treatment of religion in at least three of the assigned readings, or in three texts dealing with other “outdoor” practices sometimes characterized as religious (I will provide a bibliography), must be submitted.  This paper is worth 30 percent of your total grade (30 points). Ten points are reserved for attendance.  Attendance will be taken randomly 10 times during the semester; an unexcused absence during any of these days will result in the loss of one point.  See the tentative schedule, below, for due dates and exam dates.

An accumulated 93 or more total points for the course will result in a final “A” grade (“A+” and “D-“ letter grades are not awarded at WSU).

90-92pts = A-

87-89 pts = B+

83-86 pts = B

80-82 pts = B-

77-79 pts = C+

73-76 pts = C

70-72 pts = C-

67-69 pts = D+

60-66 pts = D

0-59 pts = F

Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please either visit or call the Access Center (Washington Building 217; 509-335-3417) to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. All accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY and EXPECTATIONS

Academic integrity is absolutely required in this course. Any student caught cheating, in any way, will fail the course and be reported to the Office of Student Standards and Accountability. Cheating is defined by Washington State Academic Code ((WAC 504-26-010 (3).) It is strongly suggested that you read and understand the definitions.

In this writing intensive course, you should be particularly mindful of avoiding plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined in WAC 504-26-010 (3i) as follows:

Plagiarism is presenting the information, ideas, or phrasing of another person as the student’s own work without proper acknowledgment of the source. This includes submitting a commercially prepared paper or research project or submitting for academic credit any work done by someone else. The term “plagiarism” includes, but is not limited to, the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment. It also includes the unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials.

All written assignments must be submitted by 11:59 pm on the day they are due. To do this, upload your paper as a document file in the “assignments” section of the course’s Blackboard site. The title of your file should be “HONORS 380.3 Paper #–your first and last name” (e.g., HONORS 380.3 Paper 1–Juliana Berners).  Please put your name on the first page of the document itself, as well.  Late assignments will not be accepted unless prior arrangements are made or if a documentable emergency occurs.

Midterm Exam Date: Oct. 2.

Final Exam Date and Time: Thursday, Dec. 13, 10:10 am – 12:10 pm.

TENTATIVE WEEKLY SCHEDULE

 Week 1: August 21 and 23.

Academic Integrity, the Academic Study of Religion, and Religion as a Lived, Social Phenomenon.

Readings: Snyder, “Wading through the History of Angling’s Evolving Ethics” (online).

Film: Prosek, The Complete Angler.

Week 2: August 28 and 30.

Water, Humanity, and Other-Than-Human Worlds.

Readings: Turner, “Liminality and Communitas,” (online); Harvey, “Signs of Life and Personhood” (online).

Week 3: September 4 and 6.

Ancient and Medieval European Fishing, Monasticism, Sustenance, and Leisure.

Readings: Hoffman, “Trout and Fly, Work and Play, in Medieval Europe (online); Berners, “The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle” (online); James, excerpt from “Mysticism” (online).

Paper 1 Due Sept. 4.

Week 4: September 11 and 13.

King Arthur’s Knights, Celtic and Anglo Saxon Fishing, and England.

Readings: Walton, The Compleat Angler (Part I, ch’s 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 16, 21).

Visit to MASC.

Week 5: September 18 and 20.

The Enlightenment, Play, and the Escape to Nature.

Readings: Cotton, The Compleat Angler (Part II, letters, “Retirement,” skim ch’s 5-12).

Week 6: September 25 and 27.

The Americas, Natural Law, and Romanticism.

Readings: Seecombe, “Business and Diversion” (online).

Paper 2 Due Sept. 25.

Week 7: October 2 and 4.

Midterm Exam (Oct. 2).

No class Sept. 4.

Week 8: October 9 and 11.

The Americas, Romanticism v. Reality.

Hemingway, “Big Two-Hearted River” (online).

Week 9: October 16 and 18.

Fishing, Religion, and Relationship.

Readings: Luce, ch’s 1-6, Fishing and Thinking (online

Paper 3 Due Oct. 16.

Week 10: October 23 and 25.

Fishing, Relationship, and Ethics.

Readings: Luce, ch’s 7-12, Fishing and Thinking (online).

Week 11: October 30 and November 1.

Lived Religion, Map, and Territory.

Readings: Maclean, A River Runs Through It.

Week 12: November 6 and 8.

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism, and Ecology.

Readings:  Duncan, The River Why.

Paper 4 Due.

Week 13: November 13 and 15.

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism,and Ecology.

Readings: Duncan, The River Why;

Week 14: November 20 and 22.

Native American and other Religious Views of Water, Fish, and Fishing.

Readings: Lokensgard, “From Serpents to Fly Fishers: Changing Attitudes in Blackfeet Country toward Fish and Fishing” (online).

No class Nov. 20 and 22. 

Week 15: November 27and 29.

 No class: Thanksgiving Break       

Week 16: December 4 and 6.

Religion, “Nature,” and the Environment.

Film: A River runs Through It.

Analytic Paper Due: December 7 by 11:59 PM.

 Final Exam Date and Time: Thursday, Dec. 13, 10:10 am – 12:10 pm.

 

Copyright 2018 Kenneth H. Lokensgard

In the Name of the River

July 22, 2018

The waters symbolize the universal sum of virtualities; they are fons et origo, “spring and origin,” the reservoir of all the possibilities of existence; they precede every form and support every creation.

Mircea Eliade, Romanian Historian of Religion. From the Sacred and Profane: The Nature of Religion, translated by William Trask (Harcourt, 1957) 130.

Summer sometimes involves trips to Hungary, where my wife grew up. Sometimes I fish there, near my brother-in-law’s house, on the Danube or on a little-known trout stream. Other times, I visit friends in Transylvania to fish much deeper in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania

Claudiu Presecan, whom I have introduced to readers before, is one of these friends in Romania. Claudiu is a devoted fly fisher, as well as an artist. He cares deeply about the environment from which he draws artistic and spiritual inspiration. Some time ago, he made a short video sharing the beauty and potential threats to one of his favorite rivers, the Somesul Rece.

Understandably, the environmental concerns most of us have revolve around places and issues in our own regions. It is good to remember, however, that people in other parts of the world have similar concerns about their own regions. Just as we have come to view the land as an ecosystem, we should view humans similarly (after all, we are part of the ecosystem). Our rivers ultimately mingle through the aquifers and oceans, and our humanity mingles as we drink from or fish those same waters. So, take a look at Claudiu’s video about the Somesul Rece and remember that our fights to preserve the health of the world extend far beyond our own home waters.

You can see Claudiu’s paintings, including a series also titled ‘In the Name of the River,’ at ClaudiuPresecan.Com. He will also be showing his work in Seattle this fall. If your interest in art does not extend much beyond tackle, you might take a look at the rods built by his friend Paul Sas, of Xander Flyrods. Paul also hand makes lures, knives, and, I’m sure, much more. Paul and another angler, Dr. Mihai Vasilescue, appear in Claudiu’s movie.

Home Again

June 1, 2018

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University Angling Literature Honors Course

April 25, 2018

Next year, I am happily offering my course on angling literature and culture again. I look forward to sharing some thoughts, as the students and I move through some great texts and discussions together. It’s a great pleasure to teach this course here at Washington State University, where we have a huge collection of fishing and other field sports literature.

Lokensgard Honors '18

Shrinking Salmon

March 1, 2018

All fly fishers have seen the old black-and-white photos of long-gone anglers, displaying the giant salmon they just caught. KUOW, a radio station serving western Washington and Southern British Columbia, has produced a news story that helps explain why we rarely see salmon of that size today. It came to my attention through the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Department of Environmental Protection. You can read or listen to the story at the following link.

http://kuow.org/post/why-don-t-you-see-people-sized-salmon-anymore

International Handwriting Day

January 23, 2018

Today is International Handwriting Day. Like many such holidays, I suspect it was created by marketers. Of course, the marketers’ greatest innovation of the modern era must be “disposability.” As manufacturers were able to produce cheaper products from less durable materials, the sellers of these products convinced consumers that the less expensive versions were “convenient.” This was because consumers could simply discard the products after a short period of time and then purchase brand new ones. Sure, these disposable products were a bit cheaper for the consumer, but their replacement costs would soon outstrip the costs of higher quality versions.

One of the most common of these “convenient” products is the disposable pen. In my world–academia–these are everywhere. You can find used pens on desks, on classroom floors, and obviously in the garbage.  This adds up to a lot of discarded plastic that will never be recycled.

On International Pen Day, you might consider switching to a refillable pen or even a good old-fashioned wood-cased pencil (biodegradable wood and recyclable tin erasure ferrule). Kaweco, a German company, offers quality fountain, ballpoint, and roller ball pens, as well as mechanical pencils, at affordable prices. The popular Kaweco “Sport” fountain pen–a small, durable “pocket” pen– has been around for over one hundred years.  A new one will run you twenty to twenty-five dollars, and it will last a long, long time. If you use a felt-tip highlighter pen, consider switching to a highlighter pencil. The one pictured below is a “Wood Note” pencil from the Japanese pencil-maker Kita-boshi. You can find many other highlighter pencils online.

If you are like me, you care about the impact that you have upon the earth and it’s inhabitants. You want that impact to be positive. Avoiding disposable products and using longer-lasting and/or biodegradable products is an easy way of at least making your impact less negative. A nice pen might even motivate you to improve your handwriting, create a poem, send a letter to someone you love, or do some other thing that will impact others positively.

Ink

Noodler’s “El Lawrence” ink and Kaweco “Sport” fountain pens.

Pen

Kita-boshi pencils and Kaweco Skyline Sport.

Help

December 29, 2017

Most of us have friends, who have found themselves in dark places. Sometimes the reasons our friends are in such situations are obvious–the reasons are “environmental,” psychologists might say. Other times, our friends are lost for more complex reasons. Occasionally, we can still identify some causes–grief, trauma, mental illness, or a combination of these and other things.

Regardless, we want to help our friends find their way out of the darkness. Sometimes, a gift of money or even just emotional support can provide our friends the nudge they need to find the right direction. But other times, especially in the more complex cases, we just don’t know what to offer. And when we finally find something, we aren’t sure if it will be of use.

Time spent out-of-doors is what often gets me through the rough patches in life. Such time helps me reorient, to find my bearings, and to continue on through the difficult terrain waiting for me at work, home, or wherever. Not surprisingly then, when friends are disoriented and depressed, I often suggest they spend some time away from their busy lives. In many cases I suggest they go fly fishing.

In the great semi-autobiographical novella, A River Runs through It, we find author Norman Maclean struggling throughout the story to help his brother, Paul. Paul Maclean is troubled by an apparent gambling addiction and perhaps by alcoholism. At one point, Norman discusses this problem with his father. Readers will recall that the father, John, is a Presbyterian minister in Missoula, Montana. Like his sons, he is also a flyfisher. Indeed, he taught his two sons to fish. The following passage describes the discussion between Norman and his father. Norman, of course, is the narrator.

He went to the door and looked out and when he came back he didn’t ask me any questions. He tried to tell me. He spoke in the abstract, but he had spent his life fitting abstractions to listeners so that listeners would have no trouble fitting his abstractions to the particulars of their lives.

“You are too young to help anybody and I am too old,” he said. “By help I don’t mean a courtesy like serving chokecherry jelly or giving money.”

“Help,” he said, “is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly.

“So it is,” he said, using an old homiletic transition, “that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always say, “Sorry, we are just out of that part.”

I told him, “You make it too tough. Help doesn’t have to be anything that big.”

He asked me, “Do you think your mother helps him by buttering his rolls?”

“She might,” I told him. “In fact, yes, I think she does.”

“Do you think you help him?” he asked me.

“I try to,” I said. “My trouble is I don’t know him. In fact, on of my troubles is that I don’t even know whether he needs help. I don’t know, that’s my trouble.”

“That should have been my text,” my father said. “We are willing to help, Lord, but what if anything is needed?

“I still know how to fish,” he concluded. “Tomorrow we will go fishing with him.”

(Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 81-82).

So, Norman and the Rev. John Maclean give “parts of themselves” to John and go fishing. They give their time, their passion, and their love as family members and fishermen. In the story, Norman indicates that this fishing trip was meaningful to all. Perhaps it was helpful, too. However, it was not so helpful that Paul was able find a path away from his troubles. In the story, he is beaten to death at Lolo Hot Springs. In real life, he met a similar end in Chicago.

I recently lost a friend. Her passing was a shock to all, especially to her family. Still, many of us knew she was struggling, and we offered those parts of ourselves that we thought might help. Admittedly, my friend and I never fished, though we certainly discussed it. Of course, I did offer other parts of myself–pieces of my life and practices that allow me to live successfully from day-to-day. I had hoped these offerings might help reorient my friend and find strength through her new connections in nature. Unfortunately, the reasons for her struggles were many and complex. And the help that I and other friends offered was not enough. As John Maclean says above, of all the parts of our lives we can offer to others, sometimes we just  “do not have the part that is needed.”

Rest easy now, Matoyaaki.

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Acknowledgement

November 27, 2017

“The Trout” and old Peetz “Reel Time” clock.

The items in the picture above usually sit on a shelf above my desk, at home. The reel on the left and the flasher in the background feature designs by Native artist Jason Henry Hunt. Hunt, a Kwaguilth descendant, collaborates with Peetz Fishing & Outdoors to produce their “Artist Series” of products. Hunt’s hand-carved 5-inch reel, called The Hunter, is particularly nice. Peetz offers laser-engraved versions of Hunt’s designs as more affordable alternatives to the hand-carved reels.

“The Hunter.” Photo from Peetz website.

The native fish of the the northwestern United States and western Canada are particularly important to many Tribes or First Nations. Therefore, some of the Tribes are actively involved in fisheries rehabilitation and conservation. Many Nonnatives simply consider tribal members as competitors for the same fish; they don’t understand the roles that Tribes play in ensuring the fish are there in the first place. Nor do they understand the sacred value the fish have for most tribal members. Peetz does understand these things. If you do too, you might look into ways that you can help support Native crafts-persons like Hunt or otherwise acknowledge the First Nations in the region, who help protect the waters we now share and the denizens therein.

Repost: Ichabod Crane and the Angler

October 30, 2017
Painting of Irving by John Wesley Jarvis, 1809 (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Painting of Irving by John Wesley Jarvis, 1809 (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

At this time of year, Washington Irving’s well-known “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is often brought to mind. This, of course, is the classic tale of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, his romantic rivalry with Brom Bones to gain the affections of Katrina Van Tassel, and his terrifying encounter with the Headless Horseman. It was originally part of a much larger collection of works by Irving, titled The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., published in 1819 and 1820. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has subsequently been published many times as a solitary work.

The person who actually reads “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in the Sketchbook, will find that it is preceded by a reminiscence entitled “The Angler.”  Here, Irving shows a very clear familiarity with fly fishing and angling literature.  He first describes his initiatory fly fishing trip “along a mountain brook among the Highlands of the Hudson.”  He admits to fishing poorly at the time and finding more pleasure in setting aside the rod and reading “old Izaak” Walton’s The Compleat Angler. Later, he also mentions reading the famous “Tretyse of fishing with an Angle” (Irving’s spelling), as well.

Irving goes on to narrate his later encounter with an old, retired mariner and expert fly fisherman in England. He writes:

I could not but remark the gallant manner in which he stumped from one part of the brook to another, waving his rod in the air to keep the line from dragging on the ground or catching among the bushes, and the adroitness with which he would throw his fly to any particular place, sometimes skimming it lightly along a little rapid, sometimes casting it into one of those dark holes made by a twisted root or overhanging bank in which large trout are apt to lurk.

In the text, Irving accompanies the old seaman home to learn more about fishing and to simply hear about the man’s fascinating life. He notes that “the old angler” kept a book on fishing, the Bible, an “odd volume or two of voyages, a nautical almanac,” and a song book as his library. Irving is explicit in showing his respect for the old man and states that his interest in fly fishing in theory, if not in practice, is renewed. Like Walton before him, he romanticizes all fisherpersons–particularly those in England–as individuals who understand the less-cultivated world of “nature” and who benefit spiritually and otherwise from such understanding:

The sweetness and serenity of Nature and the quiet watchfulness of the sport gradually bring on pleasant fits of musing, which are now and then agreeable interrupted by the song of a bird, the distant whistle of the peasant, or perhaps the vagary of some fish leaping out of the still water and skimming transiently about its glassy surface.

It is worth noting that Irving admits nature is a bit more tame in early nineteenth century England than it is in America. Indeed, his description of the Hudson Highlands is markedly less positive than his description of the English countryside.

Regardless, it is a curious thing that Irving’s recollection of “The Angler” is followed by his tale of the very nervous Ichabod Crane, who is is greatly afraid of so many things rightly and wrongly associated with nature. In Irving’s world, it is likely that Crane would have met a more certain and happy end, if he had been a fisherman, at peace in the woods during his ride home from unsuccessfully wooing Ms. Van Tassel. In fact, in Irving’s world, a more peaceful Crane might have been more successful in his wooing, in the first place (and perhaps it was the demeanor supposedly achieved through fly fishing that made Irving the rumored object of affection to the likes of the widowed Mary W Shelley and others).


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