Study Guide

The Fish (Marianne Moore) Stanza 2

By Marianne Moore

Stanza 2

Lines 6-7

an
injured fan.

  • After an enjambment that carries us from the first stanza to the second, the simile is now complete. One of the shells is "opening and shutting" like "an injured fan"—pretty cool if you imagine it underwater opening and closing in that hesitant sort of way, little by little. It sort of looks like an "injured fan," since it's not moving in a fluid or consistent manner. 
  • But that word "injured" also carries a lot of connotations: imperfection, hurt, disability. Given those associations, this mussel may also be part of a metaphor for the way we get along in the contexts of life and death. In other words, we're "injured" by our closeness to death (the ultimate "ash-heap") and the suffering that goes along with it. 
  • But cheer up Shmoopers, because it looks as if we have a recurring pattern going on in the second stanza. Line 6 has 1 syllable while line 7 has 3 syllables, just like lines 1 and 2 in the first stanza. These lines are also structured in that same sort of fishy, symmetrical way that we saw earlier.
  • What's more, we have yet another perfectly-rhymed couplet ("an" and "fan"). 
  • We might also hear some waves moving up and down with the procession of these syllables. Check out "Sound Check" for more.

Lines 8-10

     The barnacles which encrust the side
     of the wave, cannot hide
          there for the submerged shafts of the

  • What's all this about barnacles encrusting the side of a wave? We thought they only encrusted whales and rocks. Obviously we have some more figurative language here. But why "encrust" the wave? 
  • Maybe we're meant to see those barnacles as part of the water and the waves, so they're never really "hidden" on some rock or a whale. In other words, this is all one big ecosystem in which nothing can ever really be isolated by itself. 
  • In that way, we get what the speaker means by barnacles encrusting waves. They don't get their own VIP section on the bottom of the ocean floor. Everything and everyone is together here, whether we're talking about life, death, barnacles, or waves.
  • Why can't they hide? Well, it seems to have something to do with some "submerged shafts." (Here, you should read "for" as meaning "because," as in "I have no money, for I spent it all on slushies and corn dogs.") 
  • We'd love to tell you more about these shafts, but we're cut off at the end of this stanza—just like we were in stanza 1.
  • Before we head on, though, we'll just note that we've got another perfect couplet ("side" and "hide") here. So our rhyme scheme looks something like this: AABBC. We'll talk more about that in "Form and Meter."

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