The River Tivy

Michael Drayton


WHEN as the salmon seeks a fresher stream to find

(Which hither from the sea comes yearly by his kind,

As he in season grows), and stems the watery tract

Where Tivy, falling down, doth make a cataract,

Forced by the rising rocks that there her course oppose,   

As though within their bounds they meant her to inclose;

Here, when the laboring fish doth at the foot arrive,

And finds that by his strength but vainly he doth strive,

His tail takes in his teeth; and bending like a bow,

That ’s to the compass drawn, aloft himself doth throw:

Then springing at his height, as doth a little wand,

That bended end to end, and flerted from the hand,

Far off itself doth cast; so doth the salmon vaut.

And if at first he fail, his second summersaut

He instantly assays; and from his nimble ring,

Still yarking, never leaves, until himself he fling

Above the streamful top of the surrounded heap.

  More famous long agone than for the salmons’ leap,

For beavers Tivy was, in her strong banks that bred,

Which else no other brook of Britain nourished:

Where Nature, in the shape of this now-perished beast,

His property did seem to have wondrously exprest;

Being bodied like a boat, with such a mighty tail

As served him for a bridge, a helm, or for a sail,

When kind did him command the architect to play,

That his strong castle built of branched twigs and clay

Which, set upon the deep, but yet not fixed there,

He eas’ly could remove as it he pleased to steer

To this side or to that; the workmanship so rare,

His stuff wherewith to build, first being to prepare,

A foraging he goes, to groves or bushes nigh,

And with his teeth cuts down his timber: which laid by,

He turns him on his back, his belly laid abroad,

When with what he hath got, the other do him load,

Till lastly by the weight his burthen he have found.

Then, with his mighty tail his carriage having bound

As carters do with ropes, in his sharp teeth he gript;

Some stronger stick: from which the lesser branches stript,

He takes it in the midst; at both the ends, the rest,

Hard holding with their fangs, unto the labor prest,

Going backward, towards their home their loaded carriage led,

From whom those first here born were taught the useful sled.

Then builded he his fort with strong and several fights

His passages contrived with such unusual sleights,

That from the hunter oft he issued undiscerned,

As if men from this beast to fortify had learned;

Whose kind, in her decayed, is to this Isle unknown.

Thus Tivy boasts this beast peculiarly her own.