The Fish is a poem written by the renowned American poet Marianne Moore. First published in 1915, this short work of literature has become one of Moore's most well-known and beloved poems. It is often praised for its lyrical beauty as well as its exploration of themes such as mortality, nature, and human connection with the natural world.
The Fish begins with an image of a fish swimming in shallow water: "I caught a tremendous fish / And held him beside the boat." This description draws readers into the poem's vivid imagery before transitioning into more abstract language, which conveys feelings related to death and impermanence. In describing her experience catching and releasing the fish back into his element (the sea)—"And went down deep within it,"—Moore paints an evocative portrait that encourages readers to contemplate their own relationship with life and death.
The speaker's contemplative mood continues throughout The Fish until finally, she reflects on her respect for life itself: "He lived/ Knowing himself fully mistaken./ But I refused/ To accept his standing offer; / I kept him awake/ By certain corrections he had to take." Here, we see how, even though life may be filled with mistakes or imperfections, there is still something beautiful about living.
Throughout The Fish, Marianne Moore crafts delicate images that speak directly to our innermost thoughts. She provides us insight into what makes existence meaningful—our ability to appreciate both joyous and sorrowful moments without judgment or fear but rather acceptance of whatever comes our way. As such, The Fish remains an enduring classic that will continue captivating readers long after Moore wrote it over 100 years ago.