Behaviour of Fish in an Egyptian Tea Garden Commentary

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“Behaviour of Fish in an

Egyptian Tea Garden” by Keith

Douglas is about a beautiful

woman and her power to

seduce, manipulate men of any

age. The author uses

metaphors and similes by

comparing the woman “as a

white stone” and men as fishes

“A cotton magnate/…A

crustacean” to show how men’s

behavior are like of any other

animal species or as

predictable as fish. The author

keeps the imagery of a large

aquatic marine environment to

consistently illustrate the

relationship between that of an

aquatic marine life to the

behavior of men, “fish”,

towards a single, attractive

woman. This constant,

predictable “behavior” pattern

could be exploited to

manipulate and control if

someone, the woman, wishes


“Behaviour of Fish in an

Egyptian Tea Garden” consists

of seven stanzas each with four

lines in length. A narrative

poem, the poem is a

documentary containing with

two speakers, one is the

narrator the other is a

character introduced later in

the poem. Douglas doesn’t

have a structural rhyme

scheme throughout his poem.

They would change with each

stanza. Case in point, stanza

one has an ABAB rhyming

structure, stanza two has an

ABBA, and stanza three has an

ABBC. In addition, the other

stanzas that follow have either

no rhyming scheme, stanza 5,

or continue the inconsistent

rhyming pattern. However,

there is some noticeable

consistency in the poem. All

the lines in each of the stanzas

have a moderate amount of

words, each with 9-10 syllables.

The poem could be arranged

into four segments. The first

segment introduces the “slyly”

woman and her deliberate

position as “she draws down

the fish”. The second segment

introduces the second speaker

of the poem which the most

“important fish”. The third

introduces the men who gaze

on the woman’s beauty. The

fourth switches back to the

original speaker of the poem

and concludes the woman’s

choice to which one of the men

she chooses or does not

choose. The tone changes as

well with each of the section to

convey the pleasant image of

the woman, the admiration of

the “important fish”, the

predictable men who were

lured into the bait, and the

blunt conclusion.

The first stanza introduces the

setting to illustrate the imagery

of the poem and the woman’s

plot to lure men to her: “As a

white stone draws down the

fish/…draws down men’s

glances and their cruel wish/

For love.” The voice stays

consistent for this section of

the poem. The tone uses

devious words to describe the

woman’s deliberate plan she

has for the men: “Cruel wish/…

slyly.” The author chooses to

place the woman on the

“seafloor of the afternoon” to

demonstrate the woman’s

outward appearance as well as

her intentions. Choosing the

“afternoon” as a nature image

on the time of day shows her

physical outward appearance

with a warm, bright image, but

by seating her on the “seafloor”

it illustrates her true, shady

objectives planned out for the

men. The stanza ends with how

the woman “slyly” has her lip

on the spoon carefully,

savoring the ice cream,

presented in the second

stanza, as she eats it.

The second stanza continues

the thought of the last line of

the previous stanza. She eats

the ice cream in a seductive

manner: “she slips in a morsel

of ice-cream”. The following

lines describe the woman’s

physical appearance in further

detail and the way she is

positioned as she sits in an

enticing manner: “her hands/

white as a milky stone, white

submarine/fronds”. The

woman reveals her soft hands

with her perfect “milky white

stone” body. The author speaks

of the way her body is

presented to establish what


have to do to catch a man’s attention. “With spread...
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