Visual poem: “Fishes’ Night-Song”

by look i have opinions

“Fishes’ Night-Song” (“Fisches Nachtgesang”), by Christian Morgenstern

Found online here and here

0 words; 37 typographical symbols

One thing that makes this poem look peaceful to me is the resemblance of the curved lines to closed eyes. (Perhaps a predecessor of the emoticon? Wikipedia doesn’t list it.) More likely, those curves are meant to represent the water, with straight-bodied fishes swimming under it. Or perhaps they are scales. Or the curves and straight lines are soft, alternating sequences of water-sounds. There is very little in the poem to make the reader favor one over the other. (After I wrote the above, I discovered the blog Ondioline, which points out what should have been obvious to me: they’re scansion marks. Still, their other potential meanings are there, vague and suggestive.)

The poem pleases me. I would borrow a few lines to use as a section break, but I don’t have the patience to hunt down the breve (what I was mentally calling a “supine round bracket”) and find some way to add it on WordPress. Ondioline’s rendering doesn’t appeal to me.