The Goose Fish by Howard Nemerov
This poem dramatizes the conflict between appearance and reality, particularly as this conflict relates to the central symbol of the poem, the goose fish. The speaker relates the tale of two lovers who encounter a dead fish on the beach after sharing their affection with one another. While looking at the fish, the couple ponders the meaning of this fish. Taken figuratively, the goose fish occupies many roles. As the speaker overlooks the events taking place between two lovers on a beach, he introduces the goose fish as playing the part of an intruder: “Until they saw… / As though the whole world had found them out, / The goose fish…” (15-17). Shortly after the lovers witness the goose fish, they ponder over what the fish’s big toothy grin “would express, / So finished a comedian” (30-31). The speaker then expresses the lovers’ thoughts that delegate the fish as an emblem of their passionate love and an optimist of their relationship. Finally, after conveying the numerous roles that the lovers attribute to the fish, the speaker expresses the lovers’ final decision to call the goose fish their patriarch who blesses their union. In reality, the fish can not realistically satisfy these roles because it has died. In this way, the speaker communicates the several roles that the lovers ascribe to the goose fish. However, the poem begins with several oddities that hint to the fact that this poem expresses more than it’s literal words. For example, the poem follows the iambic tetrameter form with each stanza closing in an iambic trimeter line. The form of the poem as well as the speaker’s neutral attitude toward the events that take place create a philosophical and detached tone that suggest that the objects and events within the poem should not be interpreted according to their denotations. Also, the rhetoric of the first line illustrates that the words in that line do not simply describe the beach. The speaker...
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