Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Tunny Fishing
By Frédéric Mistral (1830–1914)
From ‘Calendau,’ in the Atlantic Monthly: Translation of Harriet Waters Preston

BUT when with dawn the pallid moon had set,
The whole unnumbered shoal into the net
Came pouring. Ah, but then I was elate!
Drunk with my joy, thought I had conquered fate:
“Now, love,” I said, “thou shalt have gems and gems;        5
I’ll spoil the goldsmiths for thy diadems!”
Love is the sun, the king of all this earth—
He fires, unites, fulfills with joy, gives birth,
Calls from the dead the living by the score,
And kindles war, and doth sweet peace restore.        10
Lord of the land, lord of the deep is he,
Piercing the very monsters of the sea
With fire-tipped arrows. Lo, the tunny yon!
Now in one silver phalanx press they on;
Anon they petulantly part and spring        15
And plunge and toss, their armor glittering
Steel-blue upon their crystal field of fight,
Or rosy underneath the growing light.
’Twas nuptial bliss they sought. What haste! what fire!
With the strong rush of amorous desire        20
Spots of intense vermilion went and came
On some, like sparkles of a restless flame,
A royal scarf, a livery of gold,
A wedding robe, fading as love grew cold….
So at the last came one prodigious swell,        25
And the last line, that seemed invincible,
Brake with the pressure, and our boats leaped high.
“Huzza! the prey is caged!” we wildly cry;
“Courage, my lads, and don’t forget the oil!
The fish we have,—let not the dressing spoil!        30
“’Bout ship!” We bent our shoulders with a will,
Our oars we planted sturdily but still,
And the gay cohort, late alive with light,
Owned, with a swift despair, its prisoned plight;
And where it leaped with amorous content,        35
Quivered and plunged in fury impotent.
“Now then, draw in! But easy, comrades bold,
We are not gathering figs!” And all laid hold
With tug and strain to land the living prize,
Fruit of the treacherous sea. In ecstasies        40
Of rage our victims on each other flew,
Dashing the fishers o’er with bitter dew.
Too like, too like our own unhappy people,
Who, when the tocsin clangs from tower and steeple
Peril to freedom and the land we cherish,        45
Insensate turn like those foredoomed to perish,
Brother on brother laying reckless hand,
Till comes a foreign lord to still the land.
Yet had we brave and splendid sport, I ween,
For some with tridents, some with lances keen,        50
Fell on the prey. And some were skilled to fling
A wingèd dart held by a slender string.
The wounded wretches ’neath the wave withdrew,
Trailing red lines along the mirror blue.
Slowly the net brimful of treasure mounted;        55
Silver was there, turquoise and gold uncounted,
Rubies and emeralds million-rayed. The men
Flung them thereon like eager children when
They stay their mother’s footsteps to explore
Her apron bursting with its summer store        60
Of apricots and cherries.

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