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The Fish, the Man, and the Spirit by Leigh Hunt |

The Fish, the Man, and the Spirit
by Leigh Hunt
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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