Sunday, December 20, 2009

Compassion - What I Learnt About Fishing

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allThe Anglers
As a child, I was never aware of any real ability I had, other than to get into mischief or catch cold. I discovered these rich talents early on. Even as a ten year old, I bumbled along with no appreciation of any real capabilities I might have had as a human being.

My grandfather used to take me fishing. I got a buzz from the wonderfully natural places we visited. My head got filled with the summer sounds and scenery of these spots. But I was hopeless at catching a fish, having too much compassion for the poor hapless creature to get any enjoyment from the event.

I recall stabbing my finger with a fishhook, being more astonished at how easily the needle-sharp device entered the tissue than the searing pain it caused. It stuck firmly, deep in my fingertip.

My grandfather was annoyed and looked at me sternly for a moment. He fumbled in the pocket of his fishing jacket and took out a small pair of pliers, holding them tightly in his hand.

With his other hand, he grabbed mine and lifted the injured finger so high that my shoulder hurt. I watched to see what he would do.
I thought he might pull out the hook with his pliers but I was too dumb and curious to close my eyes and brace myself.

He deftly pinched the hook in the jaws of the pliers and gave it a powerful and sudden twist. What I saw made my eyes pop.

Contrary to what I’d hoped, he didn’t pull out the hook. Instead, the business end of it reappeared through the tip of my finger – a tiny fluted barb, tinged with the blood that dripped from the newly pierced hole.

Grandfather carefully snipped off the barb with his pliers and swiftly pulled out the remains of the hook. He explained that the barb would have torn my finger apart if he'd remove it the same way it went in.

As I held my sore finger, wrapped
tightly in a piece of bandage,
I reflected on what it might be like for a poor fish who unwittingly takes the bait.

    I stood beside a brooklet, that sparkled on its way,
    and there beneath the wavelets, a tiny trout at play,
    as swiftly as an arrow, he darted to and fro,
    the gayest of the fishes among the reeds below,
    the gayest of the fishes among the reeds below.

    Angler there was standing, with rod and line in hand,
    Intent upon the fishes, a sportive fearless band,
    “`tis vain” said I “good neighbour, to fish a brooklet clear”
    The fish will surely see you upon the bank so near.
    The fish will surely see you upon the bank so near.

    But skillful was the angler, and artful too,
    The crystal brooklets depths defying, he hid the fish from view, and then he skill renewing,
    the fishes unheeding took the bait,
    and I was left lamenting, my tiny troutlet’s fate,
    and I was left lamenting, my tiny troutlet’s fate.

Video - The Trout

Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré and Zubin Mehta



Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this version of The Trout. I learned it years ago (in Scotland) but could not remember the middle part.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Pam

Yes, this poem was written (in the German language) by Schubart whose words were used by Franz Schubert in his song Die Forelle. The translation you and I know is only a part of the whole story. Check out Wikipedia at:

Anonymous said...

thank you for these english lyrics, I remember them from my childhood. x

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Anonymous, I'm always heartened by those who appreciate the poetry of the pre-postmodern era. I regret the passing of this art which seems to have been relegated to the bin of trite and immature by academic critics who committed poetricide and continue to cull the beautiful art of meter and rhyme in poetry.