Often therer are poems that touch our lives and leave a lasting impression with us. “The Fish,” by Elizabeth Bishop, is one of these poems. A critic has said that it is one “of the most calmly beautiful, deeply sympathetic poems for our time.” Why wouldn’t it be? With the great details and phenomenal imagery she uses. “The Fish” leaves you moved and warmhearted toward the fish as well as toward life.
“Shapes like full-blown roses…speckled with barnacles, fine rosettes of lime,…” is how Elizabeth Bishop describes the fish’s skin. She is able to portray the fish’s skin so elegantly that what you might have feared before is what leaves you “calmly beautiful.”
“I saw that from his lower lip…hung five old pieces of fish-line…with all their five big hooks grown firmly in his mouth…Like medals…a five-haired beard of wisdom trailing from his aching jaw.” Elizabeth Bishop is able to depict the fish’s victories in a way that you feel “deeply sympathetic.” You start to pity and have compassion for the fish.
In lines 74-75, the speaker says “-until everything was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!” Everything for the speaker went into place. “Victory filled up” for the speaker as he stared at the fish who he first looked at with no remorse and now with pity and compassion. He understood the battles the fish had fought and to have killed him would have given him a dim and cloudy feeling but to let him go would have the bright and happy feeling of a rainbow.