I Paid the Fisherman

I paid the fisherman as he passed by,

took in my hand this vile monstrosity,

a creature murky as its watery haunt,

an outsize weevil, or a hydra’s runt;

shapeless as shade, and nameless as the Lord.

A maw that gaped, and a black stump that bored

out through the scales… It snapped at me. God grants

a place in his colossal ordinance

to these revolting spooks, a world obscured.

It snapped at me… We came to blows, we sparred,

my fingers fearful of the teeth’s attack:

the vendor slipped away behind a rock,

vanishing, as it bit me. ‘Go!’ I cried:

‘Bless you, damned creature!’ – threw it on the tide,

into the depths, to tell the great curmudgeon,

the sun’s baptismal font, the boundless ocean:

Man does to Beast a good for an evil action.

(translated from Victor Hugo’s ‘Je payai le pêcheur’)