The fish
The Fish is a poem without rhyme. All about catching one big fish. Bishop may have well caught one, during her many fishing trips in Florida. Bishop wasn’t secure about this poem, as she wrote in a letter to her friend Marianne Moore.

The Fish is a poem without rhyme. All about catching one big fish. Bishop may have well caught one, during her many fishing trips in Florida. Bishop wasn’t secure about this poem, as she wrote in a letter to her friend Marianne Moore.

About the poem

The poem lacks rhyme and therefore it is a good example of free verse. Bishop was very insecure about this poem. In a letter to Marianne Moore, she wrote:

“I am afraid it is very bad. “

When the poem was finally published, there was no need to worry. Critics wrote positive reviews about the poem. Many believe that this poem shows the skills of Bishop as a great poetess: she observed and reflected in a way that only she could do.

You be the judge: what is your opinion about this poem?

The fish

The fish

 

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
– the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly-
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
– It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
– if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Elizabeth Bishop

William Butler Yeats

Don’t confuse this poem with the poem written by William Butler Yeats with the same title. Click here to read this poem.

Title
The fish
Article Name
The fish
Summary
Read the poem "The fish", written by Elizabeth Bishop.
Author
Publisher Name
The Ministry of Poetic Affairs

2 thoughts on “The fish

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