Behaviour of Fish in an Egyptian Tea Garden – Poetry Commentary Keith Douglas’s “The Behaviour of Fish in an Egyptian Tea Garden” is a poem describing an extended metaphor comparing a beautiful woman (presumably in an Egyptian tea garden, as suggested by the title) to an attractive white stone and the men who see her to passing fish. The usage of extremely rich, provocative, and highly metaphoric language in this poem enhances the quality and affect of the poem. The poem opens by setting the scene – it establishes the white stone on the seafloor, the woman in the afternoon who catches men’s attentions. As fish are drawn to a white, luminescent stone, so are men attracted to this woman. It should be noted that the only instance in which a stanza does not end with a period is the first, and the second stanza is a continuation of the description of this woman. By combining provocative and marine terms and adjectives, Douglas simultaneously transmits the appeal of the woman while maintain the underwater-like impressions of the poem. Words like “red lip”, “milky”, “sink”, and “carmined” have a connotation of luxurious feminity designed to appeal to men, and the image created by the “slyly red lip on the spoon” and pronounced by the new stanza which “slips in a morsel of ice cream” further serves to establish the woman’s sexual appeal. However, Douglas maintains the constant connection to the sea by describing the woman’s hand as a stone with submarine frond-like fingers. The third stanza sets up the action in this poem; it describes a fish, the first man that is introduced – he “swims out” to watch. This particular “fish” has the least human characteristics of all the “fish” described in the poem. This further helps Douglas set him apart as an observer. The following stanzas describe other fish with human traits and actions, or men with fish-like actions and characteristics. The “crustacean old man” who is “clamped to his chair” like a clam or an oyster, the “captain…

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