A poem by D. H. Lawrence
Fish, oh Fish,
So little matters!
Whether the waters rise and cover the earth
Or whether the waters wilt in the hollow places,
All one to you.
As the waters roll
The waters wash,
You wash in oneness
And never emerge.
Your life a sluice of sensation along your sides,
A flush at the flails of your fins, down the whorl of your tail.
And water wetly on fire in the grates of your gills;
Even snakes lie together.
But oh, fish, that rock in water.
You lie only with the waters;
No fingers, no hands and feet, no lips;
No tender muzzles,
No wistful bellies,
No loins of desire,
You and the naked element.
Curvetting bits of tin in the evening light.
Who is it ejects his sperm to the naked flood?
In the wave-mother?
Who swims enwombed?
Who lies with the waters of his silent passion, womb-element?
—Fish in the waters under the earth.
What price his bread upon the waters?
Himself all silvery himself
In the element
And the element.
Food, of course!
And strong spine urging, driving;
And desirous belly gulping.
He knows fear!
A rush that almost screams,
As the pike comes…
Then gay fear, that turns the tail sprightly, from a shadow.
Food, and fear, and joie de vivre.
The other way about:
Joie de vivre, and fear, and food,
All without love.
Quelle joie de vivre
Slowly to gape through the waters,
Alone with the element;
To sink, and rise, and go to sleep with the waters;
To speak endless inaudible wavelets into the wave;
To breathe from the flood at the gills,
Fish-blood slowly running next to the flood, extracting fish-fire;
To have the element under one, like a lover;
And to spring away with a curvetting click in the air,
Dropping back with a slap on the face of the flood.
And merging oneself!
To be a fish !
So utterly without misgiving
To be a fish
In the waters.
Loveless, and so lively!
Born before God was love,
Or life knew loving.
Beautifully beforehand with it all.
Admitted, they swarm in companies,
They drive in shoals.
But soundless, and out of contact.
They exchange no word, no spasm, not even anger.
Not one touch.
Many suspended together, forever apart.
Each one alone with the waters, upon one wave with the rest.
A magnetism in the water between them only.
I saw a water-serpent swim across the Anapo,
And I said to my heart, look, look at him!
With his head up, steering like a bird!
He’s a rare one, but he belongs…
But sitting in a boat on the Zeller lake
And watching the fishes in the breathing waters
Lift and swim and go their way—
I said to my heart, who are these?
And my heart couldn’t own them…
A slim young pike, with smart fins
And grey-striped suit, a young cub of a pike
Slouching along away below, half out of sight,
Like a lout on an obscure pavement…
Aha, there’s somebody in the know!
But watching closer
That motionless deadly motion,
That unnatural barrel body, that long ghoul nose,…
I left off hailing him.
I had made a mistake, I didn’t know him,
This grey, monotonous soul in the water,
This intense individual in shadow,
I didn’t know his God,
I didn’t know his God.
Which is perhaps the last admission that life has to wring out of us.
I saw, dimly,
Once a big pike rush.
And small fish fly like splinters.
And I said to my heart, there are limits
To you, my heart;
And to the one God.
Fish are beyond me.
Beyond my range… gods beyond my God.
They are beyond me, are fishes.
I stand at the pale of my being
And look beyond, and see
Fish, in the outerwards,
As one stands on a bank and looks in.
I have waited with a long rod
And suddenly pulled a gold-and-greenish, lucent fish from below,
And had him fly like a halo round my head,
Lunging in the air on the line.
Unhooked his gorping, water-horny mouth.
And seen his horror-tilted eye,
His red-gold, water-precious, mirror-flat bright eye;
And felt him beat in my hand, with his mucous, leaping life-throb.
And my heart accused itself
Thinking: I am not the measure of creation.
This is beyond me, this fish.
His God stands outside my God.
And the gold-and-green pure lacquer-mucus comes off in my hand.
And the red-gold mirror-eye stares and dies,
And the water-suave contour dims.
But not before I have had to know
He was born in front of my sunrise.
Before my day.
He outstarts me.
And I, a many-fingered horror of daylight to him,
Have made him die.
With their gold, red eyes, and green-pure gleam, and under-gold.
And their pre-world loneliness,
And white meat;
They move in other circles.
Things of one element.
Each by itself.
Cats, and the Neapolitans,
Thirst for fish as for more-than-water;
To quench their over-sulphureous lusts.
But I, I only wonder
And don’t know.
I don’t know fishes.
In the beginning
Jesus was called The Fish.
And in the end.
From Birds, Beasts, And Flowers: Poems by D. H. Lawrence