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Classics Teaching Resources

Mosella by Ausonius


The Journey ; The Hymn ; Looking into the depths ; The Fishes ; The Vineyards ; The gods ; Reflections in the River ; Boatmen at Play ; The Anglers ; Riverside Villas ; Some of the Villas Described ; Tributaries of the Moselle ; A Salutation ; One day Ausonius will write of eminent Belgians ; The Moselle flows into the Rhine ; Ausonius on himself ; There is so much more to sing ; All other rivers will bow to the Moselle

4. The fishes.

See that gleam of light among the sand and weed? Those are a chubís scales. His flesh is really tender, But heís packed with bones. Best serve him up within six hours. That fish with purple-spotted back - thatís a trout. Thereís a roach, see it? It wonít harm you - its spine has no sharp points. Did you catch that swift shadow? A light grayling was swimming to escape from sight.
Now you, friend barbel, you had a rough time At the jaws of the slanting River Saar, Where six mouths churn round rocky pillars. Once you reached a more famous river, You felt able to relax and swim more freely. You improve with the passage of time. Of all living creatures your old age is filled with praise.
Ah! Thereís that gleam that identifies you, Salmon with your red flesh. I wonít pass over you. It was the flick of your broad tail that gave you away, Sending turbulence from the depths to the calm surface. You have a scaly breastplate, your head is smooth, And when you are going to form a course at some dinner, You can put up with a long wait without going bad. You stand out with spotted head, and your rich belly Moves up and down, a fattened abdomen. There you are, lamprey! You are taken Through Illyricum, through the lakes of Danube - That has two names - by the signs of swimming foam, And you travel to our river, so that the broad Moselle Should have its share of such a famous nursling. What a natural colour you have! Black points Speckle your back above, circled by a yellow rainbow. A dark red covers your slippery back. Towards your middle you grow fat, and then Towards the tip of your tail the skin is rough and dry.
Oh, and you, perch. Youíll have your mention too, You table delicacy. Of all freshwater fish, You are most like sea fish, the only one That can easily compete with the red mullet. You have a lively taste, and in your solid flesh The segments are parted by bones. Hidden in holes dark with sedge and mud, lurks the pike, Lucius - a Latin name - a power most hateful to Complaining frogs. He cooks in smoky bars With rank smell - no use for the dinner table. Everyone knows the green tench, common folkís comfort, And the bleak that young lads catch with hooks, And shad, sizzling over the fire, the poor manís food. Everyone knows you, too, Sario, half way between Two species, neither and both, salmon and trout.
Gudgeon, among the riverís shoals you deserve a word: Youíre no bigger than two palms, not counting thumbs, But very fat, smooth, womb stuffed with roe, With a crest like the bearded barbel. Now itís your turn for celebration, great sheat-fish! I think your back must gleam with olive oil from Athens, I think you are a dolphin of the river. Thus you slide Hugely through channels, hardly releasing Your great bodyís length, impeded by shallow fords Or river sedge. But when you make your peaceful way upstream, The bright green banks, the sky-blue band of swimmers And the waters themselves look on in awe. The stream is split right down to its bed. The parted waves rush on along the river bank. Just so, sometimes in the Atlantic, a whale Is driven ashore by wind, or its own speed. The sea, displaced, pours forth, and great waves rise, Threatening to swamp the neighbouring hills. But this mild Moselle whale of ours brings no destruction But only glory to our mighty river.
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