From Montague's "The Trout," discuss how the catching of the trout could serve as an effective metaphor for the work of an artist.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many of the images that Montague employs in "The Trout" can be applied to the condition of the artist struggling to capture the inspiration for their work. The process by which an artist envisions a final product and the movement towards can be resonant in the images within the poem.  The image of stillness in line 3 speaks to how the artist can view their subject.  "In the water without a ripple" reflects how the artist has to authentically merge their own voice with their work. There is a convergence in the line between human and animal, where one immerses themselves in the real of the other "without a ripple." This same synthetic integration between artist and their work is necessary in the process of creating art, representing one way in which the poem's imagery can be reflective of an artist struggling to make sense of the process by which work is created.

The "fluid sensual dream" closes out Montague's first stanza.  This reflects how the artistic vision possesses connection to reality.  It shows how the "dream" of what art can be is actually quite vibrant and something that does exist in reality, even though it is purely constructed out of the artist's mind. Montague's image of conditionality rooted in externality is reflective of how another image of the poem can serve as a metaphor in discussing the work of the an artist. 

The instant of artistic creation is echoed in the poem's clarion call towards "the moment." There is a distinct moment when the person fishing seeks to bring forth the trout into their own world, and the word choice in articulating this instant bears similarity to the work of the artist:

Savouring my own absence, 
Senses expanding in the slow 
Motion, the photographic calm 
That grows before action. 

The "calm that grows before action" can embody how the artist sees their own craft.  It is an instant that is formed through the artist's "senses expanding," as the work begins to take form.  Within this instant, the artist is "savoring" their "own absence" because it is the work that is materializing.  At this point when the painter paints, or the dancer dances, or the writer writes, the person disappears into the work. It is an instant of creation, a moment "that grows before action."  It is a singular experience in time where the artist is conscious that their work is conscious.  These images help to illuminate how the focal point of the poem can be metaphorical to the work of an artist.

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