non sibi sed toti

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

9. The anglers

Already, where the bank gives easy access, A crowd of anglers searches all the depths For fish, alas! ill-defended in the riverís inner sanctum. One draws his wet lines far out in mid-stream And sweeps with knotted snare the shoals heís tricked. Another chooses a calmly-flowing reach To let his net hang wavering, marked by corks. A third lies on the rocks above the waves, Holds out his pliant rod with bending tip, And casts his hooks, baited with deadly food. The swimming shoals know nothing of the trap; Mouths gape wide, then snap shut; too late they feel Down opened throats the tearing of hidden iron. Their thrashing sends the signal. The line shakes With sudden tremor. The rod bends in harmony with it. Quick as a flash, the lad makes the line hiss, as skilfully He shakes off his catch, snatches it sideways. Its life Is beaten from it. It is like when you crack a whip: The air snaps, the wind hisses as the whip comes down. The wet fish, once caught, leap about on the dry stones, Fearing the deadly power of a sunny day. In their own watery element their strength remained; Weak in our air, they gasp, and life leaves them. A feeble flapping shakes their strengthless body; Their tail, benumbed, gives a few last shudders; Their open mouths close no more, but, gaping wide, Rasp out their dying breaths to the empty air. (It is like when a blacksmith blows his fire with bellows; A woollen shield playing on the beechen cavity Alternately takes air through the vent and holds it in.) Iíve seen, myself, fish twitching, on the point of death, Gather their strength, leap high in the air, And plunge head foremost into the river beneath, Gaining again the waters they despaired of. The boy, foiled by the loss, at once plunges down And with rude swimming chases after to grab it.
Volubilis Mosaic fish © Angus McIntyre 2001 (It is like when Glaucus from Anthedon Was by the straits of Boeotia. He tried and tasted Circesí fatal grass; He took the plants plucked by the dying fish, And dived into the Carpathian Sea, a new inhabitant. He who had ransacked with hook and net The hidden Nereus, and had often swept up Tethys, Swam among captive shoals, himself a prey.)
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