The Tale of Fisher Man

A flight of fancy from John Clare
(recently uncovered)


When we recieve a favour from fortune we ought to make use of it as if it was the last we should meet with


Pet MS A18 p R254

Pet MS A42 p118 has ‘great’ inserted before ‘favour



A young fisherman who lived near the sea was very industrious & very thriving in his industry   but he thirsted after more wealth the possesion of which was his happ[i]ness     he had a cottage & land but he thought happiness dwelt in a pallace    who when he did ever so well he wished to do better     he was ever merry as a fisherman but he thought he should be happy as a gentleman


& rowing [on the sea] full of these fancys of [wealth]     one fine morning he   by accident   meet with an old man in a very old fashioned boat     the young man was going speedily with wind & tide but the old man was going as speedily against both  & the young man was astonished & thought if he had such a boat he should be next to a gentleman     ‘should you’    said the old man   tho the young fellows thoughts never rose so high as a whisper   yet the old man knew    & ‘if you should like my boat’   continued he   ‘you shall have it in exchange for yours & if [you] mind you may then very soon be a gentleman tho for my part I would rather have your lot then that of a gentlemans    for remember’ said the old man ‘the gods give mortals the liberty to amass riches but leave the use of them entirely to their own discretion &what is one mans food is another mans poison   as wants increase with means & temptations increse with pleasures’ – 


‘I change’   said the young [man] cutting the old mans story [short]   & the old man laughed loud as he leapt in to the young mans boat & as the young man got into his   the old man shook his head & bid him good speed – when they instantly parted the old man sped [at] a horse gallop with wind & tide   & the young man at double speed against both     this was the very contrary way to which he wished to proceed & he insatantly seized the rudder to manage the boat    when to his utter astonishment the boat shot plump down into the bottom of the sea as fast & head foremost as a race horse could gallop down the steep side of mount Atlas [into the valleys beneath it]    & fall as far    went the young man down & down until at last he rested on the sands & bottom of the immense ocean


he was astonished even to fear & saw the waters for miles above him & miles about him & yet he breathed as free from choaking as he did before he started [while dibbing cabbages in his garden]     how it could be he could not tell but so it was & as his eyes began to clear of their supprise as began to look about him to see the strange country he was in     & every thing was new & nothing like what he had seen before     there were large forrests as high as his own wood but leafey & when he came to examine them they were of pearls & corral    there were monsters of extradinary size & shape 


& what he had never expected to have accosted a lady approached him   not very handsome to be sure   for she had green hair   red eyes   & teeth of odd shape   yet she seemed young & well shaped     he accosted her but she seemed not to understand him & stooping as if to amuse her self by picking up things from the sand   she offered him a handful    & they were guineas & Portugal dollars & bright as if minted but yesterday     


he lay all this time leaning on his rudder & accepting them eagerly & was for leaping out to get more   but the moment he left the rudder    that moment   the boat sprang upward as light as an eggshell & was at the top of the sea in a thought    & at the mooring before his own cottage before he could think twice about the matter     as he leapt ashore with his money which    tho the lady held it in her hand    was as much as he could haul out in an old fish crail


his wife grew fearful at the sight of so much money & more fearful when he related the story   so he resolved not to let her know the extent of his treasure     he counted & counted & all to no purpose for it was without numbe[r]   & without end     so before he went [to] bed a thought struck him that the old man might call again & exchange boat[s]   & he instantly resolved to secure the rudder to make use of another oppertunity to get more    for tho he was now a gentleman    another such a hawl might make him a Lord     & the rudder was secured accordingly


he now got weary of fishing & looked out for amusments suitable to his station     his altered condition soon got into full cry   like a fox chase    & the county round was running over with 

guesses & surmises    for his money was wasted in foolish bargains & scattered like chaff before the wind   as he knew there was plenty [more] where that came from     he bought a horse & then he coveted a gig    & then he resolved on a coach      the very next sea voyage he made in his new boat   & he determed after a while to build a ship & become [a] merchant    but these large thoughts & extravagant notions just grew up in his thoughts as the last of his treasures became exausted     


so he out with his rudder & off to sea   where he was not long in dileberating before he laid hold of the rudder & down he went to the bottom   swifter then a shooting star from the sky     but this was not the spot on which he at first alighted   nor could he find it if he tryed    as there was nothing on the sea to mark – the scenes here was very different     the monsters were more numorious but much less & the groves


< there is a break in the manuscript at this point >


It resumes…


her journey     so she set out on her travels & passed for a fine woman     she took plenty of money & cloaths with her & even thought it rudeness to offer kindness without asking & never took it     so she went on & never talked to any one & thought of nothing but the prince & the journey     she soon found herself in the great forrest & when she could get no further she did as her sister bid her   but the bushes would not part & the brambles did not heed her fine cloaths   but tore her gown & would not let her go on     she did not know what to do & tryed to get back   when a great beast rushed past her & shook the trees & broke down the bushes     she was afraid but went on & met the old man


she soon got sight of the fine house & troops of men passed her & took no notice    & when she got there a man opened the gate    before she could ask anybody   & led her into the palace     what she saw would have written a book & she would soon have been lost   but a guide showed her the way     she thought she saw the old man go out of one of the rooms   who had got there before her


she was surprised to find a garden in the middle of the hall   & finer flowers then she had ever seen   when a fine man came out of a harbour & took her by the hand & bade her sit down     he talked to her as if he had known her for years & bade her make herself at home     & read her delightful stories out of books     every thing was brought [to] her before she seemed to want it   & when he took her into the house the servants waited on her as if she had been there before     & when she got up in a morning the finest dresses where laid ready   & she never knew how they were brought   & books where always laid on the table to read     the prince told her to take no notice of any body & she only thought of home now & then   & said nothing


Pet MS A18 p R254

Pet MS A42 p18

Pet MS B9 p51-3



For the tale of fisherman


It is a common saying that our wants increases with our means but it is a truer fact that our wants increase faster then our means -- & leave us in debt.


Pet MS A18 p R254


He was always thinking about being a gentleman & he thought if he could find a few pounds in a wreck to bring him a new suit of cloaths he should be one   & he soon found a treasure that not only bought him a suit   but purchases a lease of his cottage in the bargain   & now all that he wanted to make him a gentleman was anew boat     in this he was not long dissapointed for { blank ] old man


Pet MS A18 p R254