Thursday, March 21, 2013

Faved!: Leigh Hunt's The Fish, The Man, and the Spirit



To a Fish


You strange, astonished-looking, angle-faced,
   Dreary-mouthed, gaping wretches of the sea,
   Gulping salt-water everlastingly,
Cold-blooded, though with red your blood be graced,
And mute, though dwellers in the roaring waste;
   And you, all shapes beside, that fishy be, -
   Some round, some flat, some long, all devilry,
Legless, unloving, infamously chaste: -


O scaly, slippery, wet, swift, staring wights,
   What is't ye do? What life lead? eh, dull goggles?
How do ye vary your vile days and nights?
   How pass your Sundays ? Are ye still but joggles
In ceaseless wash? Still nought but gapes, and bites,
   And drinks, and stares, diversified with boggles?



A Fish Answers

Amazing monster! that, for aught I know,
   With the first sight of thee didst make our race
   For ever stare! O flat and shocking face,
Grimly divided from the breast below! 


Thou that on dry land horribly dost go
   With a split body and most ridiculous pace
   Prong after prong, disgracer of all grace,
Long-useless-finn'd, haired, upright, unwet, slow!


O breather of unbreathable, sword-sharp air,
   How canst exist? How bear thyself, thou dry
And dreary sloth? What particle canst share
   Of the only blessed life, the watery?
I sometimes see of ye an actual pair
   Go by! linked fin by fin! most odiously.



The Fish Turns Into A Man, And Then Into A Spirit, And Again Speaks


Indulge thy smiling scorn, if smiling still,
   O man! and loathe, but with a sort of love;
   For difference must itself by difference prove,
And, in sweet clang, the spheres with music fill.
   One of the spirits am I, that at their will
   Live in whate'er has life - fish, eagle, dove -
No hate, no pride, beneath nought, nor above,
A visiter of the rounds of God's sweet skill.


Man's life is warm, glad, sad, 'twixt loves and graves,
   Boundless in hope, honoured with pangs austere,
Heaven-gazing; and his angel-wings he craves: -
   The fish is swift, small-needing, vague yet clear,
A cold, sweet, silver life, wrapped in round waves,
   Quickened with touches of transporting fear.



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