Assonance in "The Fish"
Once the reader is attuned to the
frequent assonance the poem employs, it becomes easy to
hear the beauty in the poem, just as the speaker sees
beauty in the fish. The language throughout the poem is
beautiful, and the assonance serves to highlight that
- lines 6/7 - "He hadn't fought at all./ He hung
a grunting weight"
Since "The Fish" does not employ end rhyme,
the ornamental features of language it does use stand
out. In these two short, straightforward lines, the speaker
uses assonance twice (fought/all, hung/grunting) in order
to call our attention to this feature.
- line 10 - "his brown skin hung in strips"
Another example of assonance here following closely on
the heels of the two examples in lines 6 and 7 (skin/strips)
demonstrates the speaker's willingness to use unordinary
sounding language to describe what might initially seem
an ordinary experience. The use of the word "hung"
in this line also echoes line 7, unifying them further.
- lines 14/15 - "shapes like full-blown roses/
stained and lost through age"
Another pair of lines that employ assonance (blown/roses,
stained/age) occurs just as the speaker has described
the fish as something potentially ugly; this ugliness
is undercut by the sonorous beauty of assonance, made
more striking in poetry that does not employ end rhyme.
- line 21 - "rags of green weed hung down"
This is the sixth line in this stanza to employ assonance,
and the third one to contain the word "hung."
The effect of all of these lines is to prepare us for
the revelation at the end of the poem. All of the descriptions
in these lines are set up to provoke disgust in the reader;
the rags and weeds of this line are no exception. Yet
assonance shows that the speaker takes a certain pleasure
in language, and the reader is invited to share this pleasure.
Eventually we are invited to see how an oil slick on the
surface of a puddle of bilge can be transformed into an
ecstatic rainbow vision, and this early assonance is one
of the elements that initially prepares us to accept that