John Montague’s “The Trout”

This morning, in my readings, I was reminded of poet John Montague. This inspired me to write a bit about him. Following, then, I share some biographical information about and a poem by Montague.

Montague is one of Ireland’s most respected, living poets. Montague was born to a Roman Catholic Irish immigrant father in New York, in 1929. A few years later, he was sent to live with his father’s relatives in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. His studies eventually brought him back to the US, for a brief time, before he returned to Europe and Ireland. In 1998, he was awarded the first “Ireland Chair of Poetry.” This professorial appointment is sponsored by Trinity College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast, and University College Dublin.

Montague’s “The Trout,” was first published in 1967’s A Chosen Light. The “Barrie Cooke” mentioned in the dedication is the well-known Irish artist, who passed just this year. Cooke was a passionate fly fisherman and friend of Montague’s.  You can find an online selection of Cooke’s paintings via Dublin’s Kerlin Gallery.

“The Trout”

for Barrie Cooke

Flat on the bank I parted
Rushes to ease my hands
In the water without a ripple
And tilt them slowly downstream
To where he lay, tendril-light,
In his fluid sensual dream.

Bodiless lord of creation,
I hung briefly above him
Savouring my own absence,
Senses expanding in the slow
Motion, the photographic calm
That grows before action.

As the curve of my hands
Swung under his body
He surged, with visible pleasure.
I was so preternaturally close
I could count every stipple
But still cast no shadow, until
The two palms crossed in a cage
Under the lightly pulsing gills.
Then (entering my own enlarged
Shape, which rode on the water)
I gripped. To this day I can
Taste his terror on my hands.

2 Responses to “John Montague’s “The Trout””

  1. rectenblog Says:

    Wow, that last line is haunting! As always, thank you for satisfying my hunger for more literary moments like this.


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